The Verdi trade union is calling on northern German dockers to go on warning strikes on Thursday – despite tense supply chains and the existing ship jam on the North Sea.

The 12,000 employees of the 58 port companies were called to actions lasting several hours during the late shift, Verdi announced on Wednesday.

Susanne Preuss

Business correspondent in Hamburg.

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"Colleagues have reached the breaking point, sometimes well beyond it," said Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth, the union's negotiator in the current round of collective bargaining.

She pointed to the crucial importance of port workers for the functioning of supply chains.

The German seaport companies called on Verdi to refrain from strikes.

That would be "absolutely irresponsible," says Ulrike Riedel, negotiator for the Central Port Association ZDS: "We are in the middle of an absolutely exceptional situation.

The global supply chains are severely disrupted,” she warns: “A large wave of delayed ships is approaching us from one side, and on the other there are major bottlenecks in rail freight traffic.”

The next round of negotiations between employers and the union is scheduled for Friday.

There has been speculation on the coast for days that the first port strikes since 1978 could occur this year.

Union: Employers spread false figures on wages

For his part, Verdi was outraged that employers had been disseminating figures on the income of dock workers that did not correspond to reality.

A port worker can earn 90,000 to 100,000 euros a year, but only with a lot of extra work: "You have to work in the port every weekend, Saturday and Sunday." The average salary is 58,200 euros per year.

Verdi is demanding an increase in income of 12 to 14 percent, the ZDS has so far offered a wage increase of 7 percent over 24 months.

In cooperation with the federal government's relief package, this would compensate for inflation-related real wage losses, according to the ZDS, which refers to a study by the trade union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation.

While container shipping is in the public eye due to the very high profits of the shipping companies, there are also other, less flourishing areas that find it difficult to cope with large deals, according to the ranks of the port companies.

According to this, there are declines in the port of Emden, for example, because the business with the shipping of cars had already weakened significantly before Corona.