The SCOP Seafrance strike has been headline news throughout the UK as traffic is in almost complete standstill for miles across the southwest coast of England near Dover. Yet why is the strike occurring.
SeaFrance, a bankrupted maritime transporter, was re-baptised MyFerryLink. Under the liquidation agreement Eurotunnel bought the assets and leased them to a cooperative of employees and owners of MyFerryLink, so the company continued its 200 plus weekly crossings.
Yet Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) banned the company’s service. It argued that Eurotunnel’s partnership allowed the operator to monopolise the competition. Despite their defeat after a successful appeal by MyFerryLink, the CMA displayed intention to take the matter to a higher court. Amid the uncertainty, Eurotunnel ended its contract with MyFerryLink, which expired 1 July.
The company employs over 600 people in France and Britain, and as a result many shipping jobs are now at stake. The lease of these two ferries has since passed to Danish operator DFDS, who incidentally offered to lease a third vessel to maintain the jobs of 202 of SeaFrance’s employees, but this was rejected on the grounds that this was not enough.
As a result the strike continues, but is this the right course of action? Surely the salvation of a third of the jobs would have been preferable to none. Groupe Eurotunnel released a statement regretting the three weeks which have been wasted that could have been used for valuable negotiations between DFDS and SCOP SeaFrance. This expression of regret is all well and good, but it does not alter the 600 plus shipping jobs which appear to be lost.