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48-Hour Strike Snarls Congested German Ports

Congested German ports are in the midst of a 48-hour strike that ends Saturday morning after a seventh round of labor negotiations failed to yield an agreement.

The strike, which began Thursday, came after labor group Ver.di, which represents about 12,000 employees, and the Central Association of German Seaport Companies (ZDS) were unable to reach an agreement Wednesday in last-minute talks to draw up a new worker contract.

ZDS represents 58 employers in the negotiations.

At issue is what the two groups consider to be a reasonable hike in compensation to account for inflation.

ZDS is offering total wage increases, which includes hourly pay and one-off payments, in the range of a 5.5 percent to 12.5 percent increase depending on the position and employer.

That wasn’t enough for Ver.di, which said the offer does not adequately account for inflation over the entirety of the contract.

“We need real inflation compensation so as not to leave employees in all companies alone with the consequences of the galloping price increase,” Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth, who is negotiating on behalf of workers, said last week at the end of the sixth round of failed talks.

ZDS condemned the calls for strikes on Wednesday, accusing Ver.di of being unwilling to compromise.

Ulrike Riedel, ZDS negotiator, called for talks to move to arbitration.

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“Consumers and companies are already massively affected by the globally disrupted supply chains and Ver.di calls for a 48-hour strike despite an offer of 12.5 percent,” Riedel said Wednesday ahead of the strike. “This is irresponsible.”

Riedel went on to say the inability to reach an agreement is damaging the reputation and competitiveness of German ports.

There are some 376 vessels at the Port of Hamburg alone, with 76 scheduled for arrival according to maritime analytics firm Marine Traffic.

The current work stoppage would be the third strike, with the most recent being a 24-hour warning strike in late June that involved about 8,000 workers.

Carriers warned customers of the impact to ocean freight.

Maersk told customers the strike would impact operations in Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Wilhemshaven. The carrier said rail, road and ocean freight imports and exports in its German terminals would stop during the strike and resume normal business operations 6 a.m. Saturday at the protest’s conclusion.

“We have evaluated all impacted vessels and have no plans to omit ports or stop operations,” Maersk confirmed.

Hapag-Lloyd said in an advisory its operations at the ports “might be strongly affected.”

Logistics firm Geodis outlined the potential impact to ocean freight and also said the strike could limit trucking services and create traffic around the ports.

“With each strike, the situation at German ports worsens with increasing port congestion, waiting times and yard occupancy issues,” Crane Worldwide Logistics told customers.

Crane went on to say there would likely be a chain reaction with congestion and longer wait times extending to other parts of Europe, including Rotterdam and Antwerp.