Fresh trouble at Portsmouth shipping firm MMD as workers plan to stage three-day strike over contracts dispute

MMD at Portsmouth International Port

MMD at Portsmouth International Port

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WORKERS at Portsmouth shipping firm MMD plan to stage a three-day strike in a row over their contracts, The News can reveal.

It comes after Unison balloted members over the possibility of industrial action to iron out problems at the city-council owned company, based at Portsmouth International Port.

The Unison members are totally against these changes, they feel it is demoralising to them and our negotiators that have been involved in it, believe the management have not been truthful about the financial situation that MMD finds itself in.

Lee Sprake, branch secretary of Portsmouth City Unison branch

The majority of employees in the union have agreed to take action as they say they have been forced to sign new contracts, which see certain privileges such as sick pay taken away.

They also claim the move is being made because the firm is losing too much money, despite the council insisting it is a profitable business that generates cash.

The company employs around 200 staff, though it’s unknown how many staff will walk out.

Lee Sprake, branch secretary of Portsmouth City Unison branch, said: ‘Management at MMD are in the process of imposing new contracts on the workers.

‘The Unison members are totally against these changes, they feel it is demoralising to them and our negotiators that have been involved in it and believe the management have not been truthful about the financial situation that MMD finds itself in.’

One MMD employee, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘We have all been forced to lose money. The management have ripped up our contracts and given us one which is not acceptable.

‘They have taken away everything we had before. It has all been renegotiated.

‘It’s a case of like it or lump it.

‘The council tells everyone we are making money, yet that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s very worrying times.’

The News understands workers plan to strike over a Saturday, Sunday and Monday, though dates have not yet been set.

As reported, figures compiled by Southsea resident Jerry Brown showed more than £16m of taxpayers’ money had been used to prop up the company to keep it going since the council took it on in 2008.

The fruit importer has been given £16.7m by the council, but the authority’s finance boss Chris Ward says it has generated more than £16m thanks to this investment.

Martin Putman, Port Manager, said: ‘After months of discussions we are disappointed that some employees have voted in favour of industrial action.

In order to meet the challenges of a changing business, we need to better match the

contractual agreements of our staff with the requirements of our customers. This will enable MMD to become more sustainable and viable, thus providing long-term

employment and safeguarding jobs.

‘Should industrial action be taken MMD’s management will work hard to ensure there is no disruption to our customers calling at the port.’

The planned strike action follows a consultation with staff over potential changes to their hours in a bid to modernise the way the business operates.

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