Sunday, September 30, 2012

Global Dissent by Stevedores as RoRo Freight Ferries and Container Shipping Affected by Strikes

Economic Measures Start to Hit the Logistics Community
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – CHILE – US – AUSTRALIA – NEW ZEALAND – FINLAND – PORTUGAL -The general unrest which has arisen across the globe in the past few months as economic reality dawns was illustrated in our recent article indicating that the freight trade was certainly far from immune and this week we have seen further unrest with the suspension of Brittany Ferries RoRo services and a complete shutdown in the Chilean port of San Antonio causing a cessation of both container and conventional services.

Brittany Ferries management met again with unions on Friday to no avail and despite extending the Poole – Cherbourg passenger service, which is run in conjunction with Condor Ferries and untouched by the dispute, until Friday the 5th October, all sailings on the company’s other routes are cancelled until at least Tuesday 2nd October and it seems most likely the dispute may well extend beyond this.

Brittany runs services between Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo as well as Santander and Bilbao plus Plymouth to Roscoff and Santander and Cork to Roscoff and although the Poole Cherbourg service can accept vehicles to three metres in height there is no space available in the short term. Current updates can be obtained HERE.

In Chile there are fears that the cessation of work by stevedores in San Antonio may spread to other ports. The dockers in the Valparaiso port say the nature of their work is extremely debilitating and it is unreasonable to prevent them retiring until age 65 which is what the privatisation of the country’s ports will mean. According to reports the workers are demanding the ability to retire at 55 with double their basic salary as a pension and that, in the event of their death, such benefits pass to any widows.

Similar disputes over pay and conditions have arisen in the past few weeks with the threatened action in East Coast US ports coming to a head then subsiding a little as a three month stay of execution was granted less than a week before today’s deadline allowing further negotiations to proceed. If the situation is not resolved by New Years Eve expect a disastrous outcome, the last time there was such an extensive stoppage in the US the Government estimated it cost the nation $2 billion a DAY, and that at 2002 prices.

There were lightning strikes in the Finnish ports of Hamina, Kotka and Vuosaari this month after redundancies were announced whilst ‘rolling strikes’ in Portugal by both stevedores and administrative staff who are complaining at the Government’s relaxation of employment law, such as is now proposed by some politicians in the UK allowing more leeway for dismissal of staff by management, seem set to continue.

In Australia the groundswell of discontent continues as more automation is being introduced in Port Botany after the facilities were put up for sale in July as unions protest the latest agreement with management made no mention of such development and today sees the end of the collective bargaining agreement for the Port of Auckland with the likelihood that industrial action may commence as mediation seems to have not harmonised the situation in the New Zealand docks.

Photo: Nothing new about a Dock Strike. 1955 Picket Line.