teamsters strike

Labour shortages present one of the biggest threats to the logistics sector, but more pay alone will not fix the problem.

A holistic solution is necessary to prove workers’ value and future, global head of airfreight at DB Schenker Asok Kumar told the World Cargo Summit in Abu Dhabi this week.

He said: “As far as labour unrest is concerned, I not only see no opportunity, but it is also a problem I am not sure how to address.”

Over the course of last year, strikes became more pronounced, particularly across ports in Europe and North America – with data from Cornell showing 374 strikes in the US alone, up 39% on 2021 – as surging inflation left workers poorer.

However, TIACA director general Glyn Hughes believed there were fixes that would not only resolve immediate disruption, but secure the sector long-term.

On the side lines of the show, Mr Hughes told The Loadstar it was “unrealistic” to demand that workers take on higher hours and spend more time in offices without paying them more, but believed pay alone would not address the wider problem.

“You need to make work well-paid, but you also have to get the conditions right, and that includes showing a future in the sector,” he added.

“We need to make it an industry people want to join, and we can do this by showcasing how important an industry it is – that logistics was as important as healthcare during the pandemic, for example – but also providing opportunities for career growth.”

In the UK, TIACA’s efforts to promoting the industry have included working with government, industry players and retailers on the Generation Logistics programme.

Mr Hughes said the initiative began after the government “identified a huge risk to UK supply chains and movement of its goods that worker shortages presented across the board, in terms of jobs”.

He added: “Pay is an issue, because if workers cannot afford to work in these jobs, they will have to go elsewhere. This shouldn’t be a debate we are having, particularly given the value these roles bring to the economy and people’s lives.”

On a global level, speakers called for greater governmental effort to empower workers in developing economies. Trade facilitation officer at the International Trade Center Alina Fetisova called for a “democratisation of the market that empowered women in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry”.

“She said: SMEs account for 60% of the global labour force, with 40% of those SMEs owned by women. We need to reform regulation to support and reflect this through a framework that provides for genuine democracy, giving a voice to everyone. But to achieve this, what we need are training programmes for women already in logistics to help them get into leadership positions.”

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