In some sectors, a relatively small number of workers can paralyze a large mechanism – and this is also the case in ports. As import and export centers, they usually ensure the efficient handling of goods.
After the largest strike in decades, thousands of port workers again blocked cargo ship operations in German North Sea ports on Thursday. This means that processes in global supply chains, which have been increasingly disrupted since the onset of the corona pandemic, are under additional pressure. Against this background, logistics companies wanted to stop the protest action with a court order, but to a large extent they failed.
“We have legally proven strike proportionality,” he said in industry circles. The labor courts in Bremen, Oldenburg and Wilhelmshaven rejected requests from several port logistics operators to end the warning strike. It was only in Hamburg that the dispute over the legality of the warning strikes ended in a settlement, a spokeswoman for the court said in the evening. The details of the content of this decision were not initially known.
Workers have started a strike at all major ports with an early shift, and work is not expected to continue until Saturday morning after a 48-hour break. In addition to Germany’s largest seaport, Hamburg as a central import and export hub, the ports of Bremerhaven, Bremen, Emden and Wilhelmshaven are particularly affected.
Verdi wants to increase the pressure
After seven unsuccessful talks in a wage dispute over dockers’ wages, the Verdi union wants to put pressure on employers again. They had paralyzed ship handling twice in June, most recently on June 23 for 24 hours. Similar strikes took place recently in Germany more than four decades ago.
The impact of an emergency strike on the handling of container and cargo ships is likely to be significant and will largely stop loading and unloading. 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. The largest German container carrier Hapag-Lloyd had already warned its customers a day earlier that for two days nothing would happen at the container terminals.
The negotiator of the Central Union of German Sea Port Enterprises (ZDS), Ulrike Riedel, called the call for strike “irresponsible”. While Verdi has always talked about warning strikes, the ZDS says the two-day strike “can no longer be considered a warning strike.”
The head of the Hamburg logistics company HHLA told Die Zeit weekly: “In the current situation, the protests threaten supplies to the German economy.” According to HHLA, any further delay in handling would mean a deterioration in the supply situation for consumers and businesses in Germany.
Already a lot of traffic jams
Due to the coronavirus, there has been a lot of turmoil 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), around 2% of global transport 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.
Against this background, logisticians applied to several labor courts for orders against the strike on Thursday. “The employers thought the strike was illegal,” said a spokesman for the Bremen labor court. The employers’ side criticized, inter alia, no union decision to strike and insufficiently specific demand for industrial action. They also argued that the public interest was disproportionately burdened and violated and that arbitration proceedings should have been conducted. “The chambers had different views on all four points,” said a spokesman for the Bremen court. Similarly, the spokesman for the courts of both Lower Saxony courts translated the judgments.
Verdi launched a package of demands which, according to its own statements, would mean a wage increase of up to 14 percent. over a period of 12 months, depending on the salary group. After several improvements, the Central Union of German Sea Port Enterprises (ZDS) recently presented a “final offer”, which is up to 12.5% in volume and 9.6% for conventional companies. – although with a deadline of 24 months. Verdi considers the offer insufficient as it unilaterally shifts the inflation risk onto the shoulders of employees in the second year of his term of office. The last attempt at negotiation by the parties to the collective agreements ended on Wednesday evening after more than eight hours to no result. (dpa)