Strikes at German harbor

Workers at the Port of Hamburg, Europe’s third-largest container port and the largest railway port have followed through on their threat of a strike. 

In addition to Hamburg, the German ports of Emden, Bremen, Bremerhaven, and Wilhelmshaven are also impacted by striking workers. About 70% of Germany’s port workforce is unionized.

The Central Association of German Seaport Companies (ZDS — Zentralverband der Deutschen Seehäfen e.V.,) described the warning strike over wages “with great incomprehension.”

“We are in the middle of an absolutely exceptional situation. Global supply chains are severely disrupted. On the one hand, a large wave of delayed ships is approaching us; on the other hand, there are major bottlenecks in rail freight traffic. Calling for warning strikes now is absolutely irresponsible,” ZDS said.

“It also does not do justice to the current collective bargaining in any way. We have a comparatively high wage level in German seaport operations. In the last round of negotiations, given the currently challenging inflation rate, we made an offer that compensates for the losses of our employees in real wages. This offer is in line with many other current ver.di collective bargaining agreements. The fact that strikes are now being called in the current crisis framework is completely unacceptable. We call on the ver.di Federal Tariff Commission to refrain from strikes and to negotiate on the basis of our good first offer.”

Leonard Kuntscher, ZDS spokesman told American Shipper, “This is the first strike in decades. In the last negotiations, the union got our demands. Tomorrow, the negotiations will continue. The union is demanding compensation for inflation and additional increases. In total, the demands amount to a 14% increase in one year. Our offer from May is for a plus of up to 7% in two years. 

“The strikes [Thursday] will last only a few hours and are related to the negotiations [Friday]. In principle, there is a good chance that we can conclude the negotiations [Friday] at our third meeting. In any case, our site is ready to talk and compromise. Accordingly, we have little understanding of the warning strikes [Thursday]. Whether there will be further strikes depends on the negotiations [Friday].”

American Shipper reviewed the bills of lading using ImportGenius from May 1 to Monday. Items ranging from auto parts for Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen, tire products for Michelin, and lithium batteries for Ford and Siemens arrived at the East Coast ports along with BMW motorcycles. BASF and Bayer are also major exporters.

In addition to autos, building products like laminate flooring, furniture from Ikea, Royal Caribbean spare vessel parts, Red Bull products and marketing displays, food, and even Steinway piano parts were also included in recent shipments.

According to Crane Logistics in an alert to clients, there are more than 40 container vessels waiting for port discharge and arrival. A total of 150,000 containers are waiting to be exported. Rail services were already suspended due to containers on rails and containers piling up as a result of the labor slowdown prior to the strike. Construction was also listed as a factor in the suspension. American Shipper has reached out to the rail division for an update on the impact of this strike.

It is important to remember that this strike not only impacts the importer or exporter but also hits the logistics provider and ocean carriers as well. A vessel or container at rest is not making money. Some logistical providers noted on the bills of lading are C.H. Robinson, DHL, and Seko Logistics. Ocean carriers include Maersk, APL, CMA CGM, and MSC.

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