Apart from the humanitarian aspects of the situation, livelihoods in the Irish haulage sector, which is worth over €4 billion to the Irish exchequer and is responsible for 50,000 jobs, are in serious jeopardy as a result of the strike which was prompted by 300 job losses at the My Ferry Line company.
Representatives of Irish hauliers will meet Transport Minister Paschal Donohue tomorrow to seek his help in demanding that the French government compensate them for disruption caused by the ferry workers strike.
It wants the French government to help cover losses caused by the introduction of traffic control measures in southern England as a result of the dispute.
“Operation Stack” — where freight traffic was queued on sections of the M20 in Kent while cross-channel services were disrupted — ran from June 23 to August 2. It affected thousands of hauliers, including many Irish operators.
Neil McDonnell, general manager of the Freight Transport Association of Ireland, will lead a delegation to meet the minister and press their case for compensation over delays connected to the migrant crisis in the French port.
The compensation claim may appear opportunistic or even outlandish. It is anything but.
Irish and British hauliers have lost millions of euro after experiencing huge delays in both the UK and France over the summer as a result of the strike.
This is no ordinary strike, either. To begin with, the My Ferry Link workers have behaved in a way that would see them jailed anywhere else in the EU.
At one stage, the strike escalated into protests that saw the port and the Eurotunnel closed down as the French ferry workers blockaded the port and burned tyres in the roads.
During the height of the strike a huge fire set alight by the ferry workers brought major disruption to Calais, causing gridlock on routes towards the port as dozens of migrants made attempts to reach the UK.
The chaos grew as hundreds of migrants took advantage of the strike to target British bound lorries stuck at the entrances to the port and the Eurotunnel.
On one particular day in July there were 35 miles of trucks, each one losing Irish hauliers €75 an hour. The additional cost of a diversion via Rosslare-Cherbourg costs at least €600 per round trip. As well as that, a consignment of spoiled fresh food en route to the continent is a loss not just for hauliers but for producers, farmers and insurers. Indeed, if the dispute resumes with the same intensity as before the fear of hauliers is that insurance companies will hike up their premiums or refuse to insure them altogether.
It is incumbent on Minister Donohue to take the representations of the hauliers seriously and to make a robust case for compensation to the French authorities.