Swedish Ports shut by Strikes

Sweden has been hit by strikes at its major container and ro-ro ports. The Swedish Dockworkers Union (Svenska Hamnarbetarförbundet) called the strike over the issue of union representation. It appears that this union wishes to take-over wage bargaining from the Swedish Transport Workers Union.

The issue has been under discussion for several years, with a proposal to give the Dockworkers Union bargaining rights at a local level rejected as insufficient. The result is a strike initially at Malmo, but spreading first to ports at Helsingborg, Gävle, Karlshamn, Holmsund, Sundsvall and Söderhamn. It is expected to spread to Stockholm and Gothenburg shortly. The port company Ports of Sweden, which runs these facilities and directly employs these workers, responded by ‘locking-out’ its striking staff. It is believed that the industrial action affects around 1,000 of the Dockworkers Union’s 1,300 members. The container terminal operators do not directly employ these workers but are indirectly affected none- the-less and have been forced to either reduce or halt operations.  

The situation is complicated by the fact that the conflict is as much between unions as between the employer and the union. Peter Winstén, secretary of the rival Transport Workers’ Union was fierce in his criticism saying that “the Dockworkers Union is irresponsible…. we think that the…actions are deeply unsatisfactory and directly irresponsible. It affects Swedish dockers, it affects Swedish imports and the export industry, and in the long run there is a risk that it will also hit the market if more transport is moved on to the road”.

The background to the strikes appears to be disagreements over how the Transport Workers’ Union approaches negotiations and agreements, with the Dockworkers union being more aggressive. The Svenska Hamnarbetarförbundet also has a long-running disagreement with APM Terminals at Gothenburg over employment issues which resulted in conflict in early 2018. Judging by the atmospherics there is a danger that labour disruption at Sweden’s ports could continue for some time.

Source: Transport Intelligence, January 24, 2019

Author: Thomas Cullen


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