Port strike threat in Sweden

A conflict in Sweden that has been simmering for years could result in a nationwide strike by dockworkers at 16 ports from midnight Wednesday March 13th, according to a Bloomberg report.

Mediated talks to broker a deal were continuing over the weekend.

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union wants a collective bargaining agreement on the same conditions as the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, which also organizes workers at ports and harbours. Employers, who already have an agreement with the latter group, are reluctant to sign a new deal with the more radical dockworkers’ union, which was formed in 1972 as a rank-and-file led alternative. For now, positions appear entrenched on both sides. Employers represented by the Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises have offered a collective bargaining agreement, but claim that they are prohibited from making local agreements. The dockworkers insist that it should have the right to negotiate local deals, and see the conflict as a fight for survival following years of conflict that last year led to disruptions at the APM container terminal in Gothenburg. Erik Helgeson, a union board member, said that when employers’ gave notice of an almost 5-month lockout of its members, his group was left with no choice but to call a strike. “We see this as a purely defensive measure,” he said in a phone interview. “The employers have burned all bridges, so there’s no room for us to step back.”

Companies across Sweden were said to be looking at more costly options, including using trucks and trains, to safeguard the import of goods needed for production as well as deliveries to customers outside Sweden

“We will move goods transport to roads and rail, and we are also considering using ports that aren’t affected if the strike becomes a reality,” Claes Eliasson, a spokesman at truckmaker AB Volvo told Bloomberg.