Port worker

European port workers frustrated by commission’s inaction on pressing matters

European port worker associations are disappointed and frustrated by the inaction of the European Commission on the challenges faced by the port sector due to COVID-19 as well as withdrawal of capacity by major liner companies.

Illustration; Image by Offshore Energy

The social partners of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Ports, ETF, FEPORT, ESPO and IDC expressed their disappointment and frustration with respect to the lack of support and responsiveness from the commission on several key topics for the port sector in a letter sent to  Commissioners Schmidt, Valean and Vestager.

The transport worker associations insist that they have alerted the EU Commission about the situation that prevails within the maritime logistics chain as a result of the lasting joint withdrawal of maritime capacities by major liner shipping lines.

“The effects of the low schedule reliability are cascading down and disrupting not only the organization of ports and terminals but also customers’ and other actors’ of the supply chain. Social partners deplore that these developments have not been followed-up by the EU Commission,” a joint statement from the organizations reads.

Data from Sea-Intelligence shows that global schedule reliability dropped to 44.6% in December 2020, the lowest across all months since Sea-Intelligence introduced the benchmark in 2011. Compared to December 2019, schedule reliability is -31.7 percentage points lower, and is the fifth consecutive month to mark a double-digit Y/Y decline. 

This slump in schedule reliability coincided with the carriers’ introduction of capacity on the major trade lanes.

Combined with container shortage and demand upsurge as well as labour force shortages due to Covid-19 infections, there has been continued widespread port congestion.

With carriers still not letting off capacity-wise, especially on the major trades, not even for Chinese New Year, shippers might not see improving schedule reliability until 2021-Q2, Sea-Intelligence estimates.

ETF, FEPORT, ESPO and IDC are calling on the commission to launch a more active dialogue and a real follow-up of ongoing developments, stressing that they want to engage in real debates in the pressing matters and don’t want the social dialogue to be a “mere cosmetic exercise”.

“While remaining faithful to their commitment, and until the social dialogue resumes, the social partners will carry on their work bilaterally through technical expert groups on the agreed work programme and on important issues such as health and safety of port workers where the EU Commission has since the start of the discussions in 2014 not been able to provide more effective support to find a solution to such a serious problem,” the joint statement further adds.

“ETF, FEPORT, ESPO and IDC reiterate their invitation to the EU Commission to initiate a thorough discussion about the future of the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue for Ports.”