Grim scenes were witnessed at the Portuguese port of Setubal on Thursday, where local police in riot gear had to break up a picket line of striking stevedores in order to ensure that a shipment of Volkswagen cars from a nearby manufacturing unit could be resumed.
The strike, which started on November 5, led to thousands of cars piling up at the port, as well as seven previous shipments being cancelled. Volkswagen Autoeuropa has had to, as a result, hire strikebreakers to ensure that shipments are resumed.
With cries of “Go away, go away!” In the air, stevedores resorted to tearing down the fences around the main access road to the port to place themselves before the buses with strikebreakers. The police were then forced to haul them away one by one.
Volkswagen Autoeuropa is Portugal’s single largest exporter, and its manufacturing facility produces over 880 cars each day, including the new T-Roc SUV.
While the carmaker did not comment on the hiring of strikebreakers, it released a statement saying that the ship’s loading was a result of the the efforts of the government and the port operator, adding that no alternative shipping route was capable of handling its production volume.
Portugal’s Stevedores’ union SEAL said that the port authorities were responsible for a “criminal wage discrimination” against the majority of stevedores, who do not have a permanent contract with them, and are usually hired for only a day’s job.
SEAL further accused Volkswagen Autoeuropa of hiring 30 strikebreakers to load its ship with close to 2,000 cars that had been piling up at the port since the strike started, for which they were paid much higher wages than what an average worker usually gets.