Freight traffic threatens to stand still: Warning strike poses problems for German ports

The German ports are at their limit as a result of the Corona crisis.

Freight traffic threatens to stand still: Warning strike poses problems for German ports

The German ports are at their limit as a result of the Corona crisis. Dozens of container ships are already stowed in the North Sea. The announced warning strike by dockers is likely to make the situation even worse.

For the first time in decades, a warning strike by dockers at Germany's major seaports is threatening to bring ships to a standstill. Before the third round of negotiations in the collective bargaining dispute between the German seaport operators, which begins on Friday, the Verdi union announced several hours of work stoppages in Hamburg, Emden, Bremen, Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven during today's late shift.

The offer for the approximately 12,000 employees presented so far by the Central Association of German Seaport Companies (ZDS) is insufficient and does not do justice to the situation, Verdi negotiator Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth justified the warning strike in Hamburg. The employer side called the warning strikes irresponsible and unacceptable. "The colleagues in the port are angry. They want a reasonable offer," said Schwiegershausen-Güth. After all, they had shown extreme flexibility during the pandemic and had done a lot of extra work.

They "reached the limits of their capacity and sometimes well beyond them. They kept things running with their own hands," emphasized the Verdi negotiator. With the exception of the automotive sector, handling volumes have even increased in almost all areas. Accordingly, the Verdi demands for the 58 collective bargaining companies in Lower Saxony, Bremen and Hamburg are also justified.

Among other things, the union demands an unspecified "actual inflation compensation" for the employees and an increase in hourly wages by 1.20 euros. The employer side has so far offered two increases this year and next of 3.2 and 2.8 percent and one-off payments totaling 600 euros. Schwiegershausen-Güth considers it justified that an hourly wage increase of 1.20 euros for wages of just under 15 euros to a good 28 euros per hour means a salary increase of up to 14 percent. That was absolutely deserved in view of the burden.

ZDS negotiator Ulrike Riedel, on the other hand, called the warning strike irresponsible and unacceptable. The employers' side submitted an offer that compensated for the employees' losses in real wages. This offer is also consistent with many other current Verdi collective bargaining agreements. "We call on the Verdi Federal Tariff Commission to refrain from strikes and to negotiate on the basis of our good first offer," emphasized Riedel.

Port operations are currently under extreme pressure as a result of the corona pandemic and the associated global chaos in container shipping. Disrupted supply chains with delays of the container giants, some of which lasted weeks, have meant that there are hardly any parking spaces left in the ports, since containers that would otherwise be transported in one direction or the other within a few hours now have to be stored temporarily. On the other hand, more and more ships are waiting to be cleared and are already damming up in the German Bight.

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