Swedish ports crippled by strikes

Port of Gothenburg The Port of Gothenburg was affected by the strikes last year. Credit: Port of Gothenburg
Industry Database

Sweden’s ports are continuing to face the fallout from a dispute over a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) led by the Swedish Harbour Workers’ Union (SHWU), as the organisation’s workers take part in strikes across multiple ports in the country.

The SHWU (also known as the Swedish Dockworkers Union) had been involved in mediation talks with Ports of Sweden on 22 January over its bid to secure a CBA, and which has previously seen it take strike action, however it said it rejected a proposed deal because it would mean giving up its right to participate in and negotiate contracts as well as the right to take action if agreements are violated by the employer.

“The dockers 'union rejects the mediators' contract bid because it requires the union to renounce the right to participate in local settlements at the workplaces where the members work, the possibility of interpreting their own agreement and the right to bring an action before the Labor Court if the employer party violates contractual agreements,” stated SHWU. “Thus, the union would voluntarily cancel trade union rights resulting from normal collective agreements in the Swedish labor market by law and applicable case law.”

On 14 January, the union said it had organised a total overtime stoppage in the northern ports and strikes in Helsingborg, Umeå, Karlshamn and Söderhamn. However while the strike action totalled two hours, this was followed by a lockout by Ports of Sweden social media posts on Twitter show.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Harbour Workers’ Union told The Loadstar around 1,000 dockers were participating in three-hour strikes, but had been locked out for the whole day and evening.

“The employers’ organisation, Ports of Sweden, has escalated the conflict with massive lockouts,” said the spokesperson.

“For example, in Malmö, the strike today was 7am to 10am, and yet the lockout is 7am until 11.59pm, and this is the same pattern all around the country.”

Among affected ports are Gavle, Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Holmsund, Karlshamn, Malmö, Stockholm, Soderhamn, Sundsvall and Umea, reported The Loadstar.

More strike action is expected later this week.

Swedish Transport Workers Union (SWTU) already has a CBA and workers operating under it are not affected by the lockout, but STWU secretary Peter Winsten said previous disputes led terminal operators like APMT to cut jobs without being union specific.

Mattias Dahl, CEO of Transportföretagen and Joakim Ärlund, President of the Ports of Sweden said in an article published on Transportföretagen’s website on 21 January that the Ports of Sweden have decided to lock out the members of the strike workers' union as a “necessary defence” measure. “Of course, the lockout is only directed against those who are members of the Harbor Workers' Union.”

They added: “The docket workers' strikes threaten to hit hard at the ports concerned, which in turn affects the companies that ship their goods. By extension, the whole of Sweden and everyone who is dependent on the Swedish economy is affected. An impact assessment of the Harbor Workers' Association's earlier conflict measures in Gothenburg showed that the costs for these amounted to SEK 4.5 billion, only in 2017.”

The dispute has been ongoing since 2016.

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