COVID-19: German docker on working during a pandemic

7 Apr 2020

Kay Jäger, a docker in the Port of Hamburg, spoke to us about his experience of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. He describes the new measures and procedures that were implemented to protect these vital workers. Dockers are among workers who simply cannot stop working – because they continue to work, we all have access to essential goods.



My work has been affected in different ways. One aspect is the stronger focus on hygiene. With straddle carriers, for example, there is now no change during the shifts. Instead of changing them, we each keep our own, from beginning to the end of the shift – every gang of four operators now has four straddle carriers instead of three. After each shift, each straddle carrier and crane are disinfected.

Like with some other transport workers, social distancing is a safety measure that is more difficult to respect in ports. Generally, we have to keep a distance of 2 meters, but sometimes that’s simply not possible during work. Some measures were introduced to keep the distance where possible. In the canteen, for example, the tables are separated now. And the briefing at the beginning of the shift is not held in the rooms anymore, that way we don’t have 40 workers sitting in one room. Every worker goes straight to the straddle carrier or into the bus to get to the cranes. There are limitations on how many people can be on a bus, so they drive several times before the work can start.

My union – ver.di – played a crucial role from the very beginning of COVID-19 outbreak. It is the vigilance of unions in times like these that ensure that health and safety measures are duly implemented in ports.


Do you work in a port? Has your work been affected considerably as well? Does your employer respect the health and safety measures and provide protective equipment?


If you have a story to share, please contact:


Zala Turšič, European Transport Workers’ Federation
Communications Officer
+32 478 79 41 12

Begüm Boynukalin, European Transport Workers’ Federation
Communications Officer
+32 478 79 40 53