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(new: With decisions of labor courts, 2nd and 9th paragraphs.)
HAMBURG / BREMERHAVEN (dpa-AFX) – As a result of the largest strike action in decades, thousands of port workers blocked cargo ships in German North Sea ports again on Thursday. As a result, 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 wanted to stop the protest action with a court order, but largely failed.
“We have legal control of the proportionality of strikes,” said the industry community. 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 initially unknown.
Workers have been on strike at all major ports during the morning 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.
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 the warning strike on the handling of container and cargo ships is likely to be significant and loading and unloading will largely be halted. This will further aggravate the already tense situation with a traffic jam in the North Sea, and the run-offs along the quayside will probably not be even more responsive. The largest German container shipping company, Hapag-Lloyd, had already warned its customers a day earlier that nothing would happen at the container terminals for two days.
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 that if there is a two-day strike, “it cannot be called a warning strike anymore.”
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 processing delay would worsen 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 asked several labor courts to issue warrants against the strike on Thursday. “The employers thought the strike was illegal,” said a spokesman for the Bremen labor court. Employers criticized, inter alia, no union decision to strike and insufficiently specific demand for industrial action. They also argued that the common good would be disproportionately burdened and infringed, and that arbitration should have been conducted. “The chambers had different views on all four points,” said a spokesman for the Bremen court. The spokesman for both Lower Saxony courts resolved in a similar manner.
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 payroll group. After a few amendments, the Central Union of German Sea Port Enterprises (ZDS) recently put a “final offer” on the table, which it estimates at 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 exposes employees to inflation risk in the second year of office. The last attempt to negotiate by the parties to the collective bargaining agreements ended on Wednesday evening after more than eight hours with no result. / Kf/DP/men
The leverage must be between 2 and 20