Strikes by unionized lock workers in several German waterway canal systems have halted barge traffic, according to a spokesperson at German service workers’ union Ver.di, which called for the strikes, Platts reports.
The Ver.di union wants wage and other guarantees for employees at WSA, Germany’s inland navigation authority, after Germany’s Federal Transport Ministry said it planned to reform the agency.
The strikes, which began in west and south Germany, have spread to other parts of the country, according to Reuters. As of July 9, cargo shipping was restricted or blocked on sections of rivers and canals, including the Rhine-Herne canal, Danube, Main, Ruhr, Danube-Main connection canal, Neckar, Dortmund-Ems canal and Wesel-Datteln canal, the WSA said to a Reuters reporter.
Lock personnel in Lower Saxony, Bremen and Bavaria — three major regions for inland cargo shipping — were also set to join the strike today, a Ver.di spokesperson said in an interview with a Reuters journalist. The spokesperson added that the strike also involved WSA employees in Baden-Wuerttemberg, which borders Switzerland, and North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders the Netherlands.
The walkouts were called by Ver.di to initially run through July 14, but they may continue depending on efforts to reach a settlement for workers with the German government.
The strikes have already created logistics issues for some shipping companies:
“We're working long, long hours, including weekends, to line up alternate delivery arrangements for customers,” a Hamburg Süd shipping agent said in an interview with a Platts reporter.
“The dissatisfaction with the reform that has been discussed for over two years is now to be carried out on the back of shipping and whole logistics industry,” Georg Hoette, president of Bundesverband der Deutschen Binnenschiffahrt, a German inland navigation industry trade association, told a Platts journalist.
Hoette added that shipping companies are “massively angered” by the situation, particularly following last month’s flooding in the region and the subsequent disruption to shipping.