The port of Calais faced fresh disruption this weekend as MyFerryLink seafarers began new action to protest over the failure of talks to protect their futures following the cessation of their company’s activities at the start of this month.
Some 300 protesters set fire to tyres to block an access route to the port this afternoon before switching their attention to the A16 motorway and promising further action to come in the course of the day.
French press agency AFP quoted one of them as saying, “We are not going to stop at a little barbecue. There are going to be more things.”
The seafarers began their new protest after a round table meeting in Paris failed to reach a conclusion yesterday.
French transport secretary Alain Vidalies, who called the meeting between the seafarers’ leaders, Eurotunnel, and ferry operator DFDS, said that a global settlement could not be reached until the seafarers’ cooperative, SCOP SeaFrance, had been put into liquidation.
This, he indicated, would allow DFDS, which has agreed to acquire two MyFerryLink ferries via a lease-purchase agreement with owner Eurotunnel to make individual offers to the MyFerryLink seafarers it proposed to recruit.
On Friday afternoon the Boulogne-sur-Mer commercial court, which had put off its decision earlier in the week to wait for the outcome of yesterday’s meeting in Paris, officially put the cooperative into liquidation rather than allowed it to continue in activity for six months.
This decision is expected to enable the 483 permanent contract holders in the cooperative to be paid but offers them no further employment prospects.
AFP reported seafarers’ leader Eric Vercoutre as saying that the government’s peace plan provided for fresh employment for 380 members of the cooperative but that he deplored the fact it was offering no funds to aid seafarers who had invested their redundancy pay from defunct operator SeaFrance to found SCOP SeaFrance.
In the meantime, the seafarers are continuing to occupy two former MyFerryLink car ferries in the port of Calais with the aim of preventing them being handed over to DFDS. MyFerryLink was forced to cease activity at the start of this month after Eurotunnel refused to renew its crewing agreement with SCOP SeaFrance.
Last week, minister Vidalies put forward a peace plan under which DFDS would have taken on 230 MyFerryLink seafarers and Eurotunnel, which plans to continue operating a freight ferry between Calais and Dover, a further 150.
Following a first round table meeting in Paris on Monday, however, he said that new proposals had been made and called a second meeting yesterday to allow time for these to be considered.