Europe’s dockworkers’ unions brace for overcapacity in container transportation

26 Aug 2015

On August 26 and 27 dockworkers’ unions in the ‘Hamburg-Le Havre Range’ (comprising all major seaports in Germany, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom and Belgium) will meet in Rotterdam to discuss the threats of overcapacity and on-going automation of terminals. They will also examine the  expansion of global terminal operator DP World in Europe. 

Seaports are facing numerous challenges from changes in container shipping and extra terminal capacity being built in many northern European ports. Already many terminal operators are functioning below full utilisation and fail to realise their investments in their new, state-of-the-art terminals. Throughout the Range, ports are pushed into hefty competition, enticing shipping companies with ever-lower prices and higher discounts. Consequently further undermining the financial stability of terminal operators and endangering the working conditions of dockworkers.  

At the same time, automation leads to a staggering decline in employment. Some indicate that Rotterdam, with its high levels of automation, may lose up to 20% of the jobs in its port industry. 

The combined unions of dockworkers in Germany, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom and Belgium as well as the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) will be discussing the current threats and push for socially acceptable solutions. 

Another subject is how to improve the industrial relationship between DP World and labour unions. The August conference will seek to develop a strategy to force DP World, which operates 5 container terminals within the Hamburg-Le Havre Range, into the 21st century and start talks about a collective bargaining agreement for the workers at all their terminals.