Since December, container capacity at A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S’ APM Terminals facility in Gothenburg, Sweden has sunk to 80% of its normal weekly level as a result of a conflict with the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union. A further drop of 40% may follow if APM responds with a partial worker lockout, Bloomberg reported.
As a result, a number of Sweden's biggest lines have alerted officials that they will likely seek other harbors in neighboring countries in northern Europe to ensure safe passage. Ground transport to other harbors within Sweden will drive up costs significantly.
Blockades had been imposed by the local 4 of the dockworkers' union in part to gain access to the collective bargaining agreement, and the APM Terminals have responded with a partial lockout that could last through June. According to APM, only limited daytime service would be available during the lockout.
Dockworker dissatisfaction seems to be traveling the world, making its way from the U.S. in February to Spain in March, with Sweden the latest to experience extended conflict. The Swedish conflict has been brewing for months, and is only now erupting into a likely lockout as Sweden's largest exporters must consider moving to alternative routes in order to avoid the labor situation.
While the Spanish conflict has to do with European Union compliance regarding universal austerity measures, in Sweden, the ongoing strike regards not only the demand for a separate collective agreement, but also how many stakeholderss are allowed to participate in negotiations, as well as issues involving terminal amenities. A further complication involves Swedish Dockworker Union (SDU) animosity toward Maersk, who owns the terminal at which the strike has been ongoing. Alleged to be aggressively anti-union, Maersk hs been embroiled in numerous disputes, causing its market share to drop from 57% to 45% of the total Swedish container market in record time.
Government intervention may be necessary sooner rather than later, as companies will have to measure the costs of waiting out an extended conflict versus finding most costly land routes.