Saturday, February 27, 2010

French Shipping Hit As Dock Strike Hits Freight Movements

Several Ports Affected By Strikes
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – After port workers went on strike on Wednesday at Saint Nazaire to protest changes in reforms to workers conditions, the country was hit by widespread industrial action as other ports came out in sympathy in a 24 hour stoppage called by the national port union, part of the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) public sector federation. The original dispute surrounded the MSC Magnifica, a cruise ship which was being held in St Nazaire as part of the protest by workers to obtain compensation from the Government and freight handling and shipping movements were suspended around the coast.

The dockers and port workers are incensed by plans to privatise port operations as the Government moves to improve efficiency in the sector. There are fears for an all out stoppage as the Transport Minister has failed to give an undertaking that the workers will retain their public union status. Shipping companies such as the French container giant CMA CGM have been pressuring the authorities for reform of the industry as they struggle to return to profit.

France, which traditionally of course has a somewhat turbulent record in this field, is set for more stoppages. We have already seen intermittent and long running disputes at oil refineries and this latest setback threatens agricultural exports already delayed by the awful winter weather. Now the union is threatening weekly stoppages at all ports affected by the change in status.