In some sectors, just a few 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. In this context, logistics companies now want to end the protest action with a court verdict. “We have legally tested the proportionality of strikes,” he said in industry circles.
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 is increasing the pressure
After seven unsuccessful talks in a wage dispute over dockers’ wages, the Verdi union wants to put pressure on employers again. They have already paralyzed ship handling twice in June, most recently on June 23 for 24 hours. Similar strikes recently took place 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 Seaports Companies (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.”
Threatened supply of the economy
The head of the Hamburg logistics company HHLA told Die Zeit weekly: “In the current situation, the protest action threatens 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.
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 for the World Economy (IfW), around 2% 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.
Against this background, logisticians applied on Thursday to several labor courts for interim injunctions against the strike. Decisions on applications should be made on the same day. Complainants assessed the warning strike as illegal, said a spokeswoman for the Hamburg labor court. A spokeswoman named the Hamburg logistics port HHLA and its competitor from Bremen Eurogate.
HHLA intends to exhaust all legal options
HHLA operates three container terminals in Hamburg, and another container terminal at Germany’s largest seaport is operated by Eurogate. The HHLA declined to comment further on the trial. “We are running out of legal possibilities,” only the spokeswoman said. Similar procedures also work in Lower Saxony, Bremen and Bremerhaven. Initially, there was no comment from the union.
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 a few improvements, the Central Union of German Seaport Enterprises (ZDS) recently presented a “final offer”, with a volume of up to 12.5 percent and for conventional companies at 9.6 percent. – 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 mandate. 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)