UPDATED: 7/13/22—Breakdowns in negotiations between employers and labor unions, in Germany, will now see the German labor union institute its most serious action to date. As of Thursday morning, 7/14, the unions will go on a 48-hour strike—the latest in a string of “warning strikes” that have taken place since negotiations began.
The ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven, along with others, will be completely shutdown until Saturday morning. The closures on Thursday and Friday will bring noticeable disruptions to an area already struggling with intense congestion and schedule inconsistencies.
Previous warning strikes have only lasted for 24 hours, this 48 hour strike is a representation of the escalading situation. Employers continue to state their offered wage increase is sufficient, but the labor unions disagree, and both seem ready to continue an already bitter battle.
Before the strike was officially announced, there were reports of noticeable slowdowns in handling cargo in Hamburg, as well. The continued congestion has also caused rail lines to cancel services in and out of the ports, a vital pipeline in the container flow in Germany.
UPDATED: 6/22/22—On June 22, the Verdi labor union announced that a further warning strike action will take place on Thursday, June 23. This action will be more robust than the previous one, and is expected to close all German ports on the North Sea for a 24-hour period, at least.
The union has rejected the latest offer from employers and claim the most recent proposal is actually a step back from previous progress, which has prompted the action.
On Monday June 20, labor unions working in the nearby Port of Antwerp also embarked on a 24-hour strike which closed the port operations. The port was re-opened for normal activity and given the current congestion, the one day strike is not expected to cause any significant worsening of the situation.
However, continued labor activity across the connected North Sea ports remains a significant concern, especially as there are few signs of progress in these negotiations. As the risk of more impactful action continues to build, the current actions hamper any efforts for these ports to recover from the current congestion woes.
On Thursday night June 9, the German labor union Verdi took a strike action that is considered a warning strike, in the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven, effectively shutting down all operation for a short period. While services through these ports are expected to continue, the threat of further action is being monitored closely.
These actions are being done as negotiations take place between employers and the labor unions for pay increases and is seen as a move to increase pressure on the employers to close the gap between initial offerings and the union’s demands.
Negotiations are set to continue Friday, June 10 with the hope for a swift resolution. Extended negotiations would likely lead to further disruptive action or even long-term strike and lockout scenarios.
Major ports in Northern Europe, such as Antwerp and Rotterdam, alongside the German ports have been dealing with difficult conditions and overwhelming congestion for the last several months. Even small labor actions in these conditions could increase the challenges these ports face. Anything more widespread or long-term would be cause for serious alarm.
Short term disruptions to bookings and delays in cargo movement are possible and will worsen if further action is taken.