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German Port Workers Strike After Failed Labor Contract Talks

As West Coast dockworkers and employers continue hashing out a new collective bargaining agreement, talks broke down last week resulting in a temporary strike at already congested German ports.

Ports affected by the 24-hour warning strike, which ended Friday morning, included Hamburg, Bremen, Emden, Bremerhaven, Brake and Wihelmshaven. Some 8,000 workers participated in the strike, according to the union representing them in negotiations.

Ver.di is representing the roughly 12,000 employees whose wages are on the bargaining table. Meanwhile, 58 employers are represented by the Central Association of German Seaport Companies (ZDS) in the negotiations.

ZDS has offered as much as an 11 percent wage hike over 18 months to the union, CNBC reported Monday, citing anonymous sources.

Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth, who is representing ver.di workers, last week called the ZDS’ final offer prior to the strike “completely inadequate” and said it represented no “substantial improvement to the previous offer.”

“We would have liked to have avoided another warning strike, but the now available, mostly deteriorated offer is unacceptable to us,” Schwiegershausen-Güth said in an update Friday.

ZDS reported last week, following its submission of a final offer, the offices of BLG Logistics Group AG & Co KG were vandalized with “considerable” damage done to the property.

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“In the interest of the functioning of German seaports and our role in security of supply, we have gone beyond the economic performance of our member companies,” ZDS negotiator Ulrike Riedel said last Tuesday in a statement following the final offer to workers. “Ver.di has not shown itself willing to compromise in four rounds of negotiations and has announced further strike measures.”

Riedel went on to call on ver.di to agree to assistance with negotiations from a third-party mediator, citing “our joint responsibility in this time marked by multiple crises.”

Last week’s 24-hour strike was the second, following one held during the late shift earlier this month that represented the first seen in several decades.

The strikes, while temporary, hit an already constrained supply chain locally and worldwide that’s been impacted by the war in Ukraine, China’s zero-COVID policy, an eight-day trucker strike in South Korea that ended June 15 and a $100 million container depot fire in Bangladesh earlier this month.

Maersk warned customers last week ahead of the strike that the stoppage would directly impact services in Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Wilhemshaven across ocean, rail and road on imports and exports.

Within the region, Maersk warned customers Friday of service delays in its Far East Asia to North Europe vessel service.

“We always strive to improve cargo delivery for our customers in challenging circumstances, but even a minor disruption can cause a ripple effect and lead to substantial setbacks,” the ocean carrier said.

Hapag-Lloyd issued its own alert to customers Friday, pointing to increased wait times as a result of the 24-hour strike.

Crane Worldwide Logistics told customers in an advisory on the strike last week “port congestion is becoming a considerable concern in Northern Europe.”

The logistics firm had already reported 60 vessels in queue to berth at German ports before the second strike occurred.