More strikes at German and French ports could bring congestion and delays

Source: The Loadstar
Date: 14th June 2024

Port workers affiliated with German trade union ver.di have threatened strike action at the country’s key hubs, adding to North European shipper stress as labour tensions also rise in France.

Ver.di is organising a series of dock strikes in Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Bremen and Emden after talks with the Central Association of German Seaport Operators (ZDS) ended without success.

The union said it had been unable to secure a €3 “increase in hourly wages for port workers, as of 1 June, as well as a corresponding increase in shift bonuses, including making up for the lack of an increase in shift bonuses in the 2022 collective bargaining agreement”.

Negotiations have continued in Hamburg on 17 and 18 June but a warning strike has taken place on 14th June in Emden, and ver.di said: “It remains to be seen whether there will be another warning strike if the ZDS does not submit an offer in the next round of negotiations.”

The union said that in 2022, warning strikes that accompanied talks “paralysed the ports for around 80 hours”.

Ver.di negotiator said: “The employees are disappointed and outraged that the employers have not shown any concessions but have only referred to their difficult economic situation and competition with foreign ports. In doing so, they have not shown any appreciation for the work of the employees.”

Meanwhile, in France, labour unions representing dockers and other port workers have engaged in several one-day strikes, as well as numerous four-hour work stoppages this month, in protest over pension reform that increased the statutory retirement age.

More 24-hour strikes have been scheduled for 21 and 25 June, and four-hour walkouts on three days of each week this month, at Le Havre, Marseille-Fos, Dunkirk, Rouen, Bordeaux and Nantes Saint-Nazaire.

The action could be extended into July if the unions do not receive a satisfactory response from the government to their demands.

If strikes at Le Havre, Hamburg and Bremerhaven coincide, Antwerp and Rotterdam could be inundated with North European shippers looking to shift capacity to fully operational ports.

Destination ports in North Europe and North America are not reporting significant congestion yet. Disrupted schedules at origins could lead to some vessel bunching at these hubs but with elevated volumes still expected to be seasonal and not at the levels seen during the pandemic, destination ports may be able to avoid extreme levels of congestion and delays.

However, this outlook could change drastically if negotiations fail in both Germany and France.

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