Over 300 dockworkers at APM Terminals in the Spanish port of Algeciras on Monday stopped work to protest a wage cut announced by the terminal-operating arm of A.P. Moller-Maersk.
The dock unions plan to stage a dozen 24-hour stoppages on selected days of the month, alleging that the company is demanding salary reductions of over 20 percent, according to the Gibraltar Chronicle, which said the action has led to many ships anchoring in the bay awaiting permission to enter into the port to unload cargo at the transshipment hub.
"This is due to a situation where we have to address a problem of competitiveness in that region, where we have a high level of competition," Eric Eisenberg, a spokesman for the company, told The Journal of Commerce.
"We had to address that situation, to which the initial response has been strikes," Eisenberg said. "But we hope to find a solution in a short period of time."
Eisenberg said the unions have been taking other action prior to the strike on Monday. The industrial action is expected to intensify in the coming days, according to the Gibraltar Chronicle.
According to Spanish press reports the great beneficiary of the strike action, which experts say will considerably tarnish the image of the port of Algeciras, will be the Tangier-Med terminal on the south side of the Strait of Gibraltar, where APM Terminals also operates a container terminal. Both ports are major transshipment hubs for containerships on the Asia-Europe and Europe-Mediterranean and Africa trade lanes.
A 9 percent drop in the volume of container throughput at APM Terminals Algeciras in the first quarter of 2011 is seen as the reason for a loss of competitiveness, and job losses at the terminals, which are the mainstay of economic activity in the port.
Eisenberg declined to comment on volume at the Algeciras terminal because A.P. Moller-Maersk is in a "quiet period" prior to the announcement of first-quarter results on May 11.