Strikes threaten US, Canada and European supply chains

By Paul Kelly in News Posted: 17th, June, 2024

Labor contract negotiations for 45,000 dockworkers along the US East Coast have been canceled, industrial action by Canadian railways is becoming more likely, port workers in Germany went on strike on Monday, while in France threatened port strikes in July have been suspended until after a snap parliamentary election.

The port workers’ union the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) on the US East Coast canceled planned labor talks last week, increasing concern over potential labor disruptions later this year.

The ILA said that they had canceled talks over a new six-year contract for ports along the US East and Gulf coasts after discovering that APM Terminals and Maersk Line are utilizing an Auto Gate system at the Port of Mobile, Alabama, which processes trucks without ILA labor, which the union describes as violations of its existing deal.

Until the auto gate issue has been resolved at Mobile (and potentially other ports) the ILA will not return to talks with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) over a new master contract, which is set to expire on September 30th.

The union’s chief negotiator, cited automation projects at Los Angeles and the introduction of semi-automated cranes at Virginia as examples of earlier automation projects by Maersk that resulted in fewer longshore jobs and said that there’s no point trying to negotiate a new agreement with USMX when one of its major companies continues to violate our current agreement with the sole aim of eliminating ILA jobs through automation.

If there is no coast-wide contract in place by the time of the September expiration of the existing deal, the ILA may undertake its first strike in nearly 50 years.

Canada’s Customs and Immigration Union has called off threatened job action until further notice, but meetings between the Teamsters union (TCRC) and Canadian National Railway (CN) have been abandoned, with the prospect of industrial action becoming more likely.

The anticipation of an upcoming rail strike in Canada has resulted in additional contingency planning, including rerouting efforts through the Pacific Southwest.

Port workers in Germany went on a ‘warning’ strike on Monday, impacting the ports of Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Bremen, Emden and Brake. More actions have been threatened by the Verdi trade union if negotiations for a new collective labor agreement do not progress.

French trade unions had begun to carry out strike threats in protest to pension reform, threatening a month of chaos and disruption for major ports, including container hubs Le Havre and Marseille-Fos.

However, President Macron’s decision to call a snap election means the union has no-one at government level with whom to negotiate its demands until a new administration is formed, leading them to postpone the strikes until September.

If you have any concerns about the issues raised in this article, we can review your situation, explain your options and, if appropriate, consider contingencies to avoid potential supply chain disruption.

Global Forwarding dedicated teams in the US and Europe that handle ocean shipment , customs brokerage and domestic transport.

For the US EMAIL Adam Davies.

For Europe EMAIL Andy Costara.

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