After months of wage disputes, the 12,000 port workers in northern Germany have come to an agreement. According to this, the fees in full container operations are to be increased by 9.4 percent retroactively to July 1st. This was announced by the ver.di trade union after the tenth round of negotiations with the central association of German seaport companies. In the conventional and general cargo port companies, wages will increase by 7.9 percent and from June 1, 2023 they will then increase by a further 4.4 percent each.
The new collective agreement has a term of two years. However, a special right of termination was agreed in the event that inflation is still high next year.
relief on both sides
The union's Federal Collective Bargaining Commission has already approved the outcome of the negotiations. In view of the special nature of this wage round, however, the union still wants to obtain the consent of the members in the affected companies. The final decision of the collective bargaining commission is scheduled for September 5th.
The port logistics industry reacted with relief to the agreement and the approval of the ver.di tariff commission. "In a joint effort, we managed to find a compromise with the help of new instruments," said ZDS negotiator Ulrike Riedel. "We are now waiting for ver.di to make further decisions."
With the agreement, renewed industrial action in the ports is very likely off the table.
"Our most important goal was real inflation compensation, so as not to leave employees alone with the consequences of the galloping price increases. We succeeded in doing that," said ver.di negotiator Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth.
Heaviest collective bargaining dispute in four decades
Most recently, ver.di largely paralyzed goods and container handling in the ports in mid-July. There have already been warning strikes that lasted one shift or one day. Before the start of the tenth round of negotiations, ver.di had already discussed a ballot vote on an enforced strike in a leaflet sent to the workforce. There hasn't been such a violent tariff conflict in the ports for more than four decades.
In the deadlocked dispute, the union insisted on securing real wages for all employees for the entire term of a collective agreement. While ver.di favored a twelve-month collective agreement, the employers aimed for a term of 24 months.
A walkout would have hit the supply chains, which were already massively disrupted at the expense of the economy and consumers, at an inopportune time. Since the outbreak of the corona pandemic two and a half years ago, global container shipping traffic has been increasingly out of step, with the result that urgently needed deliveries do not reach their destination on time. Every disruption, such as lockdowns in individual ports, an accident like that of the "Ever Given" in the Suez Canal or industrial disputes throws additional stumbling blocks and reduces the punctuality of the ships.