WORKERS at the Port of Tilbury went on strike over plans by a Swedish firm to introduce zero hour contracts.

The two-day strike by port workers represented by union Unite, which stared today, only hit ships serviced by Swedish-owned SCA Logistics, whose UK base is at the port.

Unite is fearful that the 24-strong permanent workforce at the firm could be replaced by lower paid agency, or casual, workers on zero hours contracts.

Jane Jeffery, Unite regional officer, said: “If this is allowed to happen, we will be turning the clock back 50 years to the bad old days when you had to rely on the tap on the shoulder to see if you had work for the day in the docks.

“Only today, the call will come on your mobile – but the culture will be the same, low-waged and insecure employment. Wages could drop substantially, while the cost of living continues to rise.”

An agreement is currently in place at the firm allowing for a certain percentage of agency workers to be used.

But Unite claim this is being undermined by the ongoing replacement of permanent trained dockers, who currently number about 24, by even more agency and casual staff.

Ms Jeffery added: “It seems that the management of SCA Logistics is hell-bent on antagonising and prolonging the dispute, instead of reaching a settlement through discussion and negotiation.”

*SCA Logistics had not responded to the Thurrock Gazette’s request for a comment at the time of going to press.