Decade-long conflict ends and nationwide port strikes halted, as the Swedish Dockworkers Union and Ports of Sweden sign off on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The long-running Swedish waterfront saga has finally been resolved after port employers and unions agreed a new collective bargaining deal for dockworkers.
With the threat of nationwide strikes looming, the Swedish Dockworkers Union (Hamnarbetarförbundet), which represents around half of workers across the country’s wharves, signed off an eleventh-hour deal with the Ports of Sweden employer association.
Swedish ports have been subject to significant disruption over the past few months. The SDU had demanded a new collective bargaining agreement for its members similar to the existing arrangement in place with the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union (Tjänstemannaförbundet), which it shares Sweden’s port labour workforce alongside.
In the absence of its own deal, the SDU had been at loggerheads with port employers in Sweden for decades.
Labour disputes flared up on numerous occasions and at various ports, causing major cargo disruption.
Most notably and as recent as 2016 was at APM Terminals Gothenburg, Sweden’s largest box hub, where sporadic walkouts ensued for more than a year and were estimated to have cost the country’s economy more than $500m.
There was cause for optimism in January when mediators and Ports of Sweden agreed on a draft CBA for SDU members. However, this was rejected by the SDU, which claimed it ignored pleas for future contract negotiations and legal representation of members at a local level.
In response, the SDU notified employers of a series of intermittent strikes, which was met with subsequent lockouts.
By the end of February, more than 120 strikes had been held at facilities across the country, including at the largest port, Gothenburg, as well as at Malmö and Halmstad.
After rejecting a second proposal put forward by mediators last month, the SDU informed employers of a full-scale walkout by all its members from March 6, which had the potential to bring Sweden’s ocean gateways to a standstill.
However, the conflict came to an end last night after Ports of Sweden and the SDU agreed a deal within the mediatory framework.
“This is a secondary contract, which means that the terms of employment for all port workers in the ports will continue to be regulated by our collective agreement with the STWU, which is the first signed agreement in the industry,” said Ports of Sweden head negotiator Joakim Ärlund.
SDU president Eskil Rönér told Lloyd’s List that the new CBA has been nearly 50 years in the making, yet crucially gives its members the security and rights it has long fought for.
“Our struggle has finally paid off and the members I have spoken to so far are very happy,” said Mr Rönér.
The dispute has been resolved as Port of Gothenburg appointed a new chief executive, according to Swedish media. Elvir Dzanic, vice-president of CEVA Logistics, which is currently in the process of being taken over by CMA CGM, will replace Magnus Karestedt in June. Mr Karestedt has spent more than 15 years at the port.