© Sylvain Laugi

A month of chaos and disruption could lie ahead for France’s major ports, including box hubs Le Havre and Marseille-Fos.

Labour unions representing dockers and other port workers look set to carry out their threat to stage several one-day strikes, as well as numerous four-hour work stoppages this month, in protest over pension reform that increased the statutory retirement age in France.

The first of the 24-hour strikes took place on Friday, with Le Havre’s ro-ro, bulk and container terminals reportedly blocked by dockers. Four ship calls were cancelled and a further 18 calls delayed.

The same day, an estimated 600 dockers and other port workers blocked the main entry point of trucks at the Fos box terminal.

Among the other French ports hit by the stoppages are Dunkirk, Rouen, Bordeaux and Nantes Saint-Nazaire. At Rouen, three ships and two barges have been delayed.

“The government doubted our ability to mobilise our members. Now they’ll see just how united we are in our demands,” warned Serge Coutouris, deputy general secretary of the Ports and Docks branch of the CGT union.

According to the union, the prevailing sentiment is one of betrayal by French president Emmanuel Macron, who made a promise in his re-election campaign in 2022 that raising the retirement age would not apply to dockworkers and port workers.

The next 24-hour strikes are scheduled for 13, 21 and 25 June, with four-hour walk-outs on three days of each week this month.

Industrial action could be extended into July if the unions do not receive a satisfactory response from the government to their demands.

Trade bodies representing road hauliers and logistics providers said they were suffering considerable disruption to their business, citing delays of up to a week in obtaining bookings at Marseille and Le Havre terminals, for example, while also incurring extra costs due to the immobilisation of goods and the diversion of logistics flows to other European ports.

For the Fédération Nationale des Transports Routiers, Organisation des Transporteurs Routiers Européens and Union des Entreprises de Transport et de Logistique, the port strikes couldn’t have come at a worse time.

A joint statement from the organisations said: “The container transport business has only just begun to pick up after a number of recent crises, jeopardising the survival of many companies,” and called on the government to implement measures to support firms particularly badly hit by the strikes and to lift restrictions for HGV traffic over the coming weekends.

The port authority of Marseille was approached by The Loadstar, but no one was immediately available to comment on the impact of the strikes.

Check out today’s News in Brief podcast

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.

    June 11, 2024 at 2:09 pm

    Note from a French worker: 600 dock workers are blocking France’s economy! The worst are the reasons given: raising the retirement age would not apply to dockworkers and port workers… while all other French workers have seen their retirement age increase by 2 years. Their selfishness is disgusting! Shame on them!