The arrival of the first container ship in 1966 marked the start of a completely new way of working in the port of Rotterdam; a true game changer. As the pioneering container terminal operator, ECT had a lot to discover, also in terms of social policy. On the 1st of January 1971, ECT entered into its first own Collective Labour Agreement (CAO in Dutch), replacing the previously applicable Collective Labour Agreement for the port. This ECT CAO among other things featured wage payment on a monthly basis (rather than the hourly wage common in the port at the time) and a round-the-clock work roster based around a four-shift system, including Sundays. This was highly uncommon in the port, but ECT already realised the necessity of providing customers with a 24-7 service early on. At ECT, dockworkers became ‘regular’ and valued employees, with good working conditions and a modern and fitting HR policy. Right from the start, this HR policy also had a strong focus on the training and development of employees, working conditions and safety as well as on employee involvement in new developments.
In 1980, ECT was the first company in the Netherlands to implement a five-shift work roster. The workweek in the continuous shift was reduced from 38.25 hours to 32.5 hours. Following the introduction of this five-shift work roster, ECT has continually invested in the further development of the organisation. The professional skills of the employee play a central role here and responsibilities are placed where they need to be within the company. In ECT’s process-driven work environment, it is actually the combination of man and technology which makes the difference. The multidisciplinary improvement teams which each time address a specific aspect of the Operations at the ECT Delta Terminal and Euromax Terminal are good examples of this. Through combinations of organisational and technological measures, they constantly take service and performance to a higher level.
ECT is constantly further perfecting the continuous service. Alternative forms of scheduling receive constant attention, also taking into consideration new scientific insights on the health impact of working in continuous shifts. In the development of work schedules, ECT’s main focal point is always to ensure that sufficient employees are available when work needs to be done. On the other hand, today’s employees have an increasing need for customisation and flexibility in terms of work versus free time. ECT is trying to meet this requirement as best as it can, for example by engaging employees in dialogue about their preferences regarding scheduling, but also by exploring ways to more accurately predict workloads. Current examples are the customised schedules for older employees who want to start working part-time. But all operational employees can nowadays also easily trade shifts via the Internet. Through new initiatives, ECT wants to further develop these options in the near future. The starting point is always: what is good for ECT is good for the employees and vice versa. With this in mind, ECT has already been a leader in social innovation for over 50 years and is ready for a challenging future.