Disruptions Grow at German Ports as Labor Talks Drag On

Wilhelmshaven Germany
Container operations in Wilhelmshaven were stopped for both shifts on Thursday in what the union called a warning strike (Eurogate file photo)

Published Jun 28, 2024 11:10 AM by The Maritime Executive


Germany’s powerful union Ver.di is continuing to stage a series of “warning strikes” rolling across the main German commercial ports as the union says they are “still far apart” on contract negotiations. The latest effort came yesterday with both the day and night shifts stopping work at Wilhelmshaven.

Carriers are continuing to warn customers of potential impacts on their schedules as Ver.di says that there could be additional strikes before the next round of talks which is not scheduled for nearly two weeks. Maersk issued another update to customers saying that it was “reviewing vessel line ups and schedules, as well as potential impact of the strike action on vessel departures. We are looking into taking additional measures, such as diversions or move count restrictions in order to minimize the impact on onwards vessel schedules, and consequently, delays to our customers’ cargo.”

Yesterday’s action impacted Germany’s deep-water port and one of the primary ports for container operations. Wilhelmshaven’s container terminal is operated by Eurogate. The port has a nearly 60-foot depth permitting it to handle the largest containerships in the world.

Ver.di is seeking a new 12-month agreement for its 11,500 members working at Germany’s North Sea ports. It is calling for an increase in hourly wages of three euros as of June 1, 2024, as well as a corresponding increase in shift allowances, including a catch-up for the missing increase in shift allowances in the 2022 collective agreement. Media report said this would equate to between 10 and 14.5 percent increase depending on current wages. Ver.di cites its concessions in the 2022 negotiations and Germany’s current rate of inflation.

Two years ago, the negotiations stretched to ten rounds before an agreement. Ver.di also staged warning strikes to pressure the Central Association of German Seaport Operators with reports saying port operations were suspended for a total of 80 hours. It caused widespread disruptions and backlogs.

The two sides commenced talks at the beginning of June, with a second meeting on June 6 and a third round on June 17 and 18. The fourth round is not scheduled until July 11 and 12 in Bremen.

Warning strikes have ranged from Hamburg on June 7, to Bremen (June 11), Bremerhaven (June 12), and Emden (June 14). Coordinated to the third round, Ver.di called for the broadest strike which hit Hamburg, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Brake, and Emden along with a coordinated rally in Hamburg where they said 1,500 to 2,000 members were expected. The strike brought container movements to a standstill and caused backups of trucks on major roads around the Hamburg port.