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Port and rail strikes loom in Europe, USA and Canada

French port strikes have been suspended, but German strikes have started, with industrial action by Canadian railways likely and industrial action by Canadian railways is becoming more likely, while the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) is edging closer to the first strikes at ports along the US East and Gulf coasts for 50 years.

French trade unions began 24-hour strikes last week at ports including Le Havre and Marseilles, in protest to pension reform, but it now appears that the threat of a month of chaos and disruption for major ports has been lifted. For now.

President Macron’s decision to call a snap election means the Fédération Nationale des Ports et Docks CGT (FNPD) has no-one at government level with whom to negotiate, so until a new administration is formed they have decided to postpone the strikes tabled for this month.

Port workers in Germany went on a ‘warning’ strike last week at Emden, with a series of strikes planned for the ports of Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Bremen, Emden and Brake if negotiations for a new collective labor agreement do not progress.

North America
The International Longshoremen Association (ILA), which represents 85,000 port workers along eastern seaboard and Gulf coast ports has cancelled planned labor talks last week, increasing concern over potential labor disruptions later this year.

The ILA said that they had cancelled talks over a new six-year contract for their members after discovering an Auto Gate system at the Port of Mobile, Alabama, which processes trucks without ILA labor, that the union describes as a violation of its existing deal.

The union highlighted automation projects at Los Angeles and semi-automated cranes at Virginia as examples of earlier automation projects that resulted in fewer longshore jobs and said that there’s no point trying to negotiate a new agreement with the US Maritime Alliance (USMX) when one of its major companies continues to violate the current agreement with the sole aim of eliminating ILA jobs through automation.

Until the auto gate issue has been resolved at Mobile and 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 and if there is no coast-wide contract in place when it expires, 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.

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.

EMAIL Colin Redman for assistance, insights and advice.