QUAY workers at Portsmouth International Port are being asked whether they want to strike over new contracts.
The Unite union says the quay assistants, who are responsible for tying and untying the ferries at the port, are to be dismissed from their jobs and then rehired on different contracts.
These contracts would see their hours extended until after midnight – their current finishing time – and no pay rise for the extended hours.
Unite says it is fighting the plan from Portsmouth City Council, and will end its ballot for industrial action on Monday.
Unite convenor at Portsmouth city council, Richard White, said: ‘Unite has made numerous approaches to PCC to find a negotiated way forward, one that rewarded the commitment of quay assistants.
‘However, PCC has chosen the heavy handed approach of dismissal and re-engagement on inferior terms - something which we will vehemently challenge.’
The union says it has been trying to find a solution since May last year, but to no avail.
Unite regional officer, Ian Woodland, added: ‘Currently, just under half the staff are contractually obliged to service late sailings and the rest can leave at midnight.
‘This has left the new staff increasingly frustrated that they have been employed to undermine the terms and conditions of existing staff and also that they are servicing vessels under the new overtime rates, but, in a majority of cases are not being paid for doing so.
‘Our members have now indicated that they wish to oppose this race to the bottom and will fight to put an end to this two-tier workforce.’
A spokeswoman for Portsmouth International Port said: ‘We have been negotiating with this group since the implementation of the local pay review, over the payments for servicing ships after midnight.
‘During that time new members of staff have been engaged. The quay assistants involved have been made several offers but have turned them down and this has lead to the current situation.
‘In order to have some certainty that we can serve our customers we need to bring this matter to a conclusion.
‘We regret that so far we have failed to reach agreement with T&G Unite and these seven members of staff as we have a very good relationship.’