Further strikes on the cards at French ports

Marseilles port: At least 14 ships had to be turned away.

FOLLOW-UP industrial action in the wake of the 24-hour strike that paralysed major French ports last Wednesday looks a real possibility this summer, after the country’s cabinet gave formal backing to plans for further privatisation.

The communist-leaning CGT union, which is behind the dispute, has responded with a strongly worded statement, reiterating opposition to the sell-off.

The CGT accused the government of refusing to listen to the dock workforce, after organising sham negotiations.

“Delivering this public sector to the appetites of financial interests is not socially, ecologically or economically responsible,” it charged. “The search for optimum financial profitability to the detriment of the general interest will have heavy consequences for jobs, skills and security.”

Meanwhile, the maritime sector is counting the cost of the present disruption. At least 14 ships have had to be turned away from Marseilles, where many port employees were already taking part in a go-slow action in the run up to the nationwide walk-out.

Genoa, Antwerp and Barcelona are among those picked up the displaced traffic, which includes 11 boxships, two tankers and a cruise vessel.

The situation has created extra expense for many shippers in the region. Local haulage industry
sources quoted a price of €2,000 for Antwerp-Lyon, four times the going rate for Marseilles-Lyon.

Marc Reverchon, president of the local employers’ organisation, told a press conference: “This strike perhaps gives the appearance of being soft, but it isn’t soft for business. We are heading to a blockage of container terminals that are going to be so saturated that we will not be able to enter or leave them anymore.”

Even with the return to work, throughput at the main container terminal in Marseilles has been reduced by two-thirds, he added.