Hamburg (dpa) – There is still no agreement in the conflict over the wages of dockers in major German North Sea ports. This may result in the fact that the largest German seaports will be stopped again – this time for up to 48 hours. The Verdi union asked workers to stop working from Thursday morning until Saturday morning. Warning strikes would affect all important North Sea ports – apart from Hamburg, by far the largest German seaport, also Bremerhaven, Bremen, Emden, Wilhelmshaven and Brake. A warning strike should start in all locations with the start of the early shift, negotiator Verdi Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth told German news agency Wednesday.
Previously, the Central Association of German Sea Port Companies (ZDS) and Verdi were unable to reach a mutually acceptable tariff compromise in the seventh round of negotiations lasting more than eight hours. Both sides negotiate around 12,000 employees in 58 collective bargaining companies in Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Bremen. Port workers already paralyzed ship handling twice in June, most recently on June 23 for 24 hours.
Expected significant impact
The impact of the warning strike on the handling of container ships and cargo ships is likely to be significant and the loading and unloading of ships will largely be halted. This will worsen the already tense situation with the traffic jam in the North Sea, and the coastal processes are likely to be even more abnormal. ZDS negotiator Ulrike Riedel called the strike “irresponsible” due to disrupted supply chains to the detriment of consumers and businesses.
Due to the coronavirus, there has been a lot of confusion in the global container and cargo ship traffic for a long time. According to the latest calculations by the Kiel Institute of the World Economy (IfW), more than two percent of global shipping capacity is in traffic jams in the North Sea. There are currently around 20 freighters waiting for anchorages in the German Gulf, most of them headed for Hamburg.
Verdi has come forward with a package of demands that, according to her own statements, would mean a wage increase of up to 14 percent. over a period of 12 months, depending on the salary group. After some improvements, ZDS recently made a “final offer” which the association puts at 12.5 percent for container companies and 9.6 percent for conventional companies, but with a deadline of 24 months. The Verdi Claim Package, like the ZDS offering, includes several elements, including an hourly wage increase, allowances, and one-off payments.
It is particularly controversial how things should continue in the two-year term in 2023. Verdi is seeking special termination clauses in order to be able to renegotiate the offered raise for the coming year if necessary. According to the ZDS, on Wednesday it proposed a list of criteria, but both sides could not agree to it.
Hourly wages should increase retrospectively
Specifically, according to the ZDS, hourly wages should increase retrospectively from June by 1.20 euros (in car transshipments by 90 cents). The allowance in container operations should increase by EUR 1,500 or in conventional operations by EUR 750. Additionally, employees of container companies should receive a one-time payment of 700 euros. According to ZDS, from June 2023, hourly wages and allowances are to increase by another 3.1 percent.
Verdi Schwiegershausen-Güth, the negotiator, criticized that the current offer is “still insufficient for all components”. It spreads the risk of price changes, especially in the second year, unilaterally among employees. “We need a collective agreement that will provide better income for the entire duration of the collective agreement.”
The ZDS negotiator Riedel complained that Verdi is adhering to the maximum standards, while wage contracts are now being concluded in comparable sectors, which in some cases are subject to significantly lower terms. She reiterated a request that Verdi had previously rejected “to finally agree to the arbitration so that we can come to a solution.”