French dockworkers Jan. 21 began a four-day nationwide strike amid warnings of further stoppages as port employers resist union demands for improved working conditions and early retirement.
The Communist-led CGT, the largest dockworker union, claimed solid support for the strike at all ports, with shipping at a standstill from Marseille in the south to Le Havre, the nation’s main container port, in the north.
“All ports in France will remain totally or partially blocked for four days,” said CGT Secretary General Tony Houtbois.
By The Numbers: Europe-North America Westbound Container Trade.
Dockworkers will strike Friday and Sunday, and other port workers, including container crane operators, will walk off the job on Saturday and Monday.
French transport secretary Thierry Mariam asked the country’s seven leading ports to resume negotiations with the CGT over early retirement for dockworkers.
The government forced changes in working conditions at the seven publicly owned ports -- Marseille, Le Havre, Dunkirk, Bordeaux, Rouen, La Rochelle and Nantes-St. Nazaire -- in 2008 as part of an overall reform aimed at boosting productivity to the level of rival European ports that have captured a large slice of France’s container traffic.
The government also loosened the state’s control over the ports but remains the single shareholder.
During negotiations to implement the reform, which involved the transfer of around 2,000 crane operators from port authority payrolls to private stevedores, employers agreed to earlier retirement for 5,000-6,000 dockworkers engaged in arduous work.
The government says any agreement must comply with its national pension reform, which was voted by Parliament in October and which raised the retirement age for all workers from 60 to 62 and the threshold for full benefits from 65 to 67.
The CGT is resisting attempts to link dockworkers’ early retirement to the nationwide pension reform.
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