The surprise announcement by French president Emmanuel Macron last week to call an election has led to dock and port worker unions postponing a series of strikes this month, which threatened to bring chaos to box ports like Le Havre and Marseille.

A 24-hour stoppage on 7 June saw Le Havre’s ro-ro, bulk and container terminals reportedly blocked by dockers, leading to four ship calls being cancelled and a further 18 delayed, while at Marseille-Fos, an estimated 600 dockers and other  workers blocked the main entry point to the box terminal.

Further one-day strikes had been called for 21 and 25 June, along with four-hour walkouts on three days of each week this month – all in protest at pension reform that increased the statutory retirement age in France.

However, the snap election left traditionally militant union Fédération Nationale des Ports et Docks CGT (FNPD) with no-one at government level with whom to negotiate its demands until a new administration is formed.

It has therefore delayed further industrial action until late September.

That will be a huge relief to trade bodies representing hauliers and logistics providers, who said they had suffered considerable business disruption from the industrial action. They had cited delays of up to a week obtaining bookings at Marseille and Le Havre terminals, for example, as well as incurring extra costs due to the immobilisation of goods and diversion of logistics flows to other European ports.

Meanwhile, the Association Française des Entreprises Privées (Afep), which represents more than 100 of France’s largest companies, has warned of the significant impact from the election on the French and other European economies, with the prospect of the far-right winning the most seats in the French assembly or a hung parliament.

“The major risk is that the French and European economies will stall for a long time, and the temptations of international isolation and a headlong rush into state budgetary changes will only serve to reinforce this”, said Afept.

That situation would “compromise the maintenance of employment”, it claimed, and of the French social model to which its members “are attached to”.

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