French ports Jan. 25 returned to work after a four-day nationwide strike as dock unions plan their next move in a bitter labor dispute.
The Communist-led Fédération Nationale des Ports et Docks CGT, the largest union on the waterfront, is widely expected to call for further stoppages as the government refuses to bow to its demands for early retirement for several thousand dockworkers.
The government is under pressure to make concessions as port employers are backing the CGT's call for retirement at 58 for dockworkers and other port workers with arduous jobs.
The four-day strike, the latest in a series of stoppages this month, paralyzed cargo handling at leading ports, including Marseille and Le Havre, the country's largest container hub.
As unions discuss further strike action, the International Dock Workers Council, an association formed by organizations of dockworkers, called on its members to refuse to handle ships and cargoes diverted from French ports.
Ocean container carriers have been re-routing containers bound for French ports to foreign ports, notably Rotterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge in northwest Europe and Barcelona and Genoa in the Mediterranean.
The dispute centers on the CGT's demand that between 5,000 and 6,000 dockworkers and other port workers with arduous jobs be allowed to retire four to five years before the legal minimum retirement age.
Port employers and the union reached an outline agreement on early retirement in May as part of negotiations over the government's port reform program.
But the government raised the minimum retirement age for all workers from 60 to 62 and the threshold for full benefits from 65 to 67 in November and insists any deal with the dockworkers must comply with the new rules.
Port employers have offered to partially finance early retirement at 58 for certain dockworkers but the scheme would also require public funds.
By contrast, companies in other sectors, like car manufacturer Renault are fully funding early retirement schemes.
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