Friday, August 9, 2013

Industrial Action Affects Cargo Carriers, Longshoremen and Logistics and Freight Forwarding Group

Disturbances in Germany, New Zealand and the USA as Staff Strike whilst Others Locked Out
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – NEW ZEALAND – US – There appears to be more unrest than usual this month with regard to relations between management and staff including stoppages to cargo vessels on the Kiel Canal, a strike of workers handling a logistics contract for a major freight forwarding group in Auckland and the ongoing battle taking place on America’s north west coast between longshoremen and major grain shipping terminals, the history of which we have covered previously.

In Germany the official strike by members of the German services union ver.di (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft) affecting cargo services on the Kiel Canal which began on the 7th August and is set to run until Sunday 11th August, does not seem to have been fully effective in stopping traffic. Private interests have apparently been operating the Brunsbuttel locks. Service is expected to operate to 1400 hours today and from 0600 to 1400 tomorrow (Saturday) and 1400 to 2200 the following day. More stoppages can be expected next week at the Kiel-Holtenau-Locks.

In New Zealand between ten and twenty staff (dependant on whose figures you believe) have reportedly gone on strike at the Kuehne + Nagel’s Auckland distribution centre which handles goods for garment retailer Postie Plus. Whatever the number, this represents only a minor percentage of workers employed by the freight forwarding group and Managing Director Troy Hageman stated that the company was working together with other staff to ensure no customers were affected.

The workers are apparently members of First Union which says the strike will continue into next week and is the result of attempts to elicit what has been described as a ‘substantial’ increase in basic pay. K+N maintain three major distribution centres in the country handling the logistics requirements of customers working in an array of industries. Mr Hageman said he was disappointed that action had been taken whilst negotiations were on-going.

Meanwhile the long running dispute between members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the grain shippers at ports along the US North West coast, continues unabated. Speaking to the Handy Shipping Guide the ILWU confirmed that its members were still locked out and picketing around the clock at Marubeni-Columbia Grain in Portland, Oregon, and Mitsui-United Grain across the river in Vancouver, Washington State.

Whilst the grain companies maintain they have status as US operations, the union points to the foreign ownership and has been attempting to elicit more information in its battle with two terminal operators. The two are Japanese conglomerate Marubeni’s subsidiary Columbia Grain and Philippines headquartered International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI). The union has been trying to obtain records of the dealings between these companies and their landlord, the Port of Portland for some time.

Following a lack of response the ILWU has now filed a lawsuit against the Port of Portland, alleging numerous ongoing violations of the Oregon Public Records Act (OPRA), after which it says it received demands for a $200,000 advance payment for the public records requests which it made between June and December last year. The union accuses the Port saying a quotation to extract the records was apparently based on a rate of up to $400 an hour to comb through public records to obtain information relating to the transparency of dealings between the Port and its tenants.

The lawsuit, filed in the Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges that the full amount of $200,000 had to be paid ‘up front’ and was only a quotation for ‘first phase’ costs to identify and locate the requested records. Subsequently the union would be held liable for any ‘second phase’ expenses incurred by the Port which would include any costs of attorney and paralegal fees to review and segregate records between exempt and non-exempt information, before production of any documents. Furthermore the Port of Portland asserted it could not provide an estimate of such ‘second phase’ fees other than to say that ‘it could be a substantial amount’.

The union is asking the Court to issue an order declaring that 'the Port of Portland’s handling of ILWU’s public records requests to be dilatory, in bad faith, and in violation of the Oregon Public Records Act'; issue an order ‘compelling the Port to waive or substantially reduce its fees'; and issue an order compelling it to produce to ILWU the non-exempt records requested by ILWU in June, September, and December 2012'. Leal Sundet, ILWU Coast Committeeman and member of ILWU Local 8 in Portland, commented:

“Oregonians have a right to know how whether the Port of Portland is irresponsibly managing the biggest public port in our state. The Port’s lack of transparency is inexcusable, especially at a time when its deals with overseas companies have resulted in attacks on American working conditions and created unrest among its longtime labor force.”