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Kenya’s Struggling Uber Drivers Fear a New Competitor: Uber Wage Cutting For Bigger Profits

Current News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 21:53

Kenya’s Struggling Uber Drivers Fear a New Competitor: Uber Wage Cutting For Bigger Profits

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/world/africa/uber-kenya-driver-protes...

By KIMIKO de FREYTAS-TAMURAMAY 22, 2017

Photo

Traffic in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. CreditAdriane Ohanesian for The New York Times
NAIROBI, Kenya — James Njoroge, an Uber driver in Nairobi, earns barely $5 at the end of a grueling 10-hour workday ferrying customers through snarled traffic across the Kenyan capital. Now a new competitor is in town, threatening to undercut even these meager earnings.

That rival is none other than Mr. Njoroge’s own employer.

Uber in Kenya, already one of the company’s most affordable services in the world, charges customers in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, a minimum fare of $2.90.

Uber is aiming to beat back competing services by pushing its prices even lower. In April, the San Francisco-based company announced it was introducing an even cheaper service at half that price, $1.45, by allowing its drivers to use much older, lower-quality cars.

Drivers say they’re bearing the brunt of the price cuts. In February, drivers went on strike to protest fare cuts that they said made it difficult for them to break even. The new pricing is much lower than that.The prospect of losing what is already a threadbare living is making Mr. Njoroge, 29, nervous.

“We’ve been working for them so much, but now they’re slashing us,” he said recently, slowing down his Toyota, a seven-year-old model, hardly brand-new but newer than the cars expected to be part of the fleet for the coming service, uberGO. He waited patiently for a herd of goats, led by two teenagers wearing Adidas hoodies, to cross the road. Traffic swiftly packed up from behind. “Kenyans always go for cheap-cheap, so this is worrying,” he said. “I don’t know what to do.”

Uber has quickly expanded across parts of Africa, where it is seen by those signing up as drivers — or “partners” in the Uber lingo — as a rare job opportunity on a continent with stubbornly high levels of unemployment.

But the service has stirred debate over how low fares should go, and the company has faced a series of strikes from South Africa to Lagos. This month, drivers in Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, went on strike after fares were slashed by 40 percent.

Faced with fierce competition from other ride-hailing apps, Uber’s latest service in Kenya, critics say, would pit its own drivers against each other in a kind of cannibalistic race to the bottom, eroding what little they already earn.

“To live in Nairobi, it’s very hard,” Mr. Njoroge said recently in his home in Umoja, a dusty but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Nairobi where, within a short space of time, a fight broke out, a minibus with “Rock Gospel” stenciled on its side unloaded passengers, a man hawked grilled meat and a fashionably dressed woman crossed paths with a strutting rooster.

“You have to hustle on all sides,” he said. “If we don’t have many clients,” he said, referring to competition from uberGO, “we’ll need to find new options for work.” Mr. Njoroge already has two other side hustles.Uber insists that the new service would allow drivers to save on fuel and other expenses, ultimately making their jobs more profitable.

“Revenues might not be higher, but the costs will be lower, so ultimately profits will be higher,” Alon Lits, Uber’s general manager for sub-Saharan Africa, said in an interview. “We believe our economics make sense,” he said, but added that the company was in the process of getting feedback from drivers in order to “interrogate our assumptions before moving forward.”

In Nairobi, Uber and its competitors like Taxify, an Estonian company, and Little Cab, a company owned by Kenya’s mobile network giant Safaricom that offers free Wi-Fi in its cars, are aiming to capture clientele from a rising, but fragile, middle class that still values affordability, sometimes at the expense of quality of service or even vehicle safety. Competition is fierce even among apps for notoriously dangerous boda-bodas, or motorcycle taxis, which are a major cause of road accidents.

In February, a series of strikes by an informal union of Uber drivers forced the company to raise the minimum fare to $2.90 from about $2, and rates to 39 cents per kilometer, up from 33 cents. But many drivers say uberGO, which is 29 cents a kilometer, is a fresh attempt to bring down rates, given that many cost-conscious customers are likely to use the cheaper service. The company last month said it was even offering $30 — six times Mr. Njoroge’s net daily earnings — as an inducement to drivers to sign up to the new, cut-price service.

Mr. Njoroge and many other Uber drivers expressed anxiety not just about losing customers but also about failing to meet car loans — loans that Uber helped them secure in the first place and that require drivers to stay with the company until they’re paid off.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Boda-bodas in Nairobi’s Westlands area. The motorcycle taxis are considered a major cause of road accidents.CreditAdriane Ohanesian for The New York Times

Uber sponsors its drivers based on their earnings record with the company. Without Uber, drivers struggle to obtain auto loans, even for secondhand cars, because banks require borrowers to earn monthly salaries of 50,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $485. That is far above what most ordinary Kenyans, even those with diplomas and degrees, can hope to earn.

Once a driver pays off the loan, which typically takes about three years, the car is the driver’s to keep, although by that stage it will typically be 10 years old. At that point drivers can leave Uber and start their own businesses, although many drivers said they intended to stick with Uber. Free of car-loan payments, they would keep significantly more of what they earn.

Until the final loan installment is made, however, drivers are pretty much at the company’s mercy. If they have not logged on to Uber’s softwarefor a week or so, the company sends a warning. If they’re absent for an extended period of time, and Uber decommissions them, the bank could withdraw its loan.

Uber “gives with one hand and takes with the other,” said Samuel Gichia, another Uber driver, who nonetheless appreciated the freedom that Uber offered. “My car is my office,” he said, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel as he listened to reggae music. “When you no longer have a loan, that’s when Uber is going to be very sweet.”

Drivers also complain that the Uber algorithm means they will be paid only for distance traveled and no longer receive extra fare when they are stuck in traffic. That amounts to an effective pay cut, since the driver loses fuel, time and the opportunity to pick up new passengers. A two-hour journey over a short distance could still carry a fare of only $2.90 — the minimum fare — because “you haven’t moved,” said Mr. Njoroge. (Even then, Uber takes its 25 percent cut.) Mr. Lits of Uber denied those claims, saying drivers do receive compensation for time spent in traffic.

Uber drivers say they might make 6,000 Kenyan shillings, or $58, a day, which doesn’t seem that bad by Kenyan standards — until they lay out their laundry lists of loans and work-related expenses. From that $58, drivers typically have to pay $19 for the car loan, $19 on fuel and another $14.50 for Uber’s commission. Once insurance is paid, there’s very little left.

Take Mr. Njoroge, the eldest of six siblings — the other five are still in various stages of schooling — and a father of one.

Mr. Njoroge, who had a string of odd jobs after graduating from university in agricultural sciences, turned to Uber in 2015 when it began in Kenya. Uber, he thought, would give him more independence, the ability to support his wife and son, now 2 years old, and a chance to buy a secondhand car.

After settling his car payments and paying for fuel, he said, he has about $5 left by the end of the day. On Fridays and Saturdays, when he is busier picking up night revelers, he makes net earnings of about $10.

He supplements his income with commissions from selling electronic credit for M-Pesa, a money transfer service on mobile phones, and also working as an agent for a local bank.

Mr. Njoroge complains little. He looked wistful when asked about his dreams and ambitions, but remained silent.

Back on the road, he finally gave his response.

“Right now, I can’t tell,” he said, as his car inched its way across town. “Right now, it’s just surviving.”

Tags: UberKenyawage cutting
Categories: Labor News

India: From war protestors to labour activism: India’s first IT workers union

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Scroll
Categories: Labor News

Crooked UBER Ripping Off Drivers Again

Current News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:23

Crooked UBER Ripping Off Drivers Again

Uber admits it charged riders more than what drivers saw

http://www.sfexaminer.com/uber-admits-charged-riders-drivers-saw/

A recent report found that Uber has been charging riders a different price than what drivers thought they were being charged. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on May 22, 2017 1:00 am

Since last year, Uber drivers suspected that riders were being charged one price, while drivers themselves were seeing another, often lesser price when the trip was done.

Turns out, drivers were right.

In a Bloomberg News interview published Friday, Uber revealed they were indeed charging riders a different amount than drivers saw as the charge for a trip.

That’s significant, Christian Perea, a San Francisco-based Uber driver said, because riders may be charged a higher amount upfront — say, $25 to go downtown — but drivers will only earn a percentage off a smaller charge, like $20, when a trip is complete.
Uber pockets the difference, Perea said.

“More often than not, the driver would end up earning less on that ride then what Uber charged you, the passenger,” Perea said, because the driver would take a more efficient route than Uber’s upfront pricing system “guessed” the driver would take.

“It was in Uber’s interest to charge a little higher,” he added.

Perea is also a writer for the blog The Rideshare Guy, followed religiously by thousands of Lyft and Uber drivers. In September last year, and other times since, Perea and Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy blog, calculated fares and fees from many drivers to reveal Uber showed different prices to drivers and riders.

In a statement to the San Francisco Examiner, an Uber spokesperson wrote, “We price routes differently based on our understanding of riders’ choices so we can serve more people in more places at fares they can afford.”

Uber sent an email to its drivers on May 19, and listed a number of changes to how it shows driver earnings, including more transparency, seemingly in response to this issue.

“These changes reflect that there are times when what a rider pays may be higher or lower than what you earn for a trip,” Uber wrote in the email to its drivers.

Riders will “always know the cost of a trip before requesting a ride,” the spokesperson added, and drivers will “earn consistently for the work they perform with full transparency” into what a rider pays and what Uber makes on every trip.

Perea said some newer Uber drivers may not mind the new pay structure, and he lauded Uber’s recent move toward transparency.

However, he also said that Uber has justified rate cuts for drivers saying the company needed to lower prices to entice riders. Charging riders more, he said, runs counter to that argument.

“As a driver I just spent the last four years through six price cuts having my pay basically trimmed to the point where it’s terrible,” he said. “Being told we need to ‘lower the prices’ so more people will take Uber.”

“We knew it was bull the whole time,” he said.

Tags: Uberdriver rip-offfraud
Categories: Labor News

Crooked UBER Ripping Off Drivers Again

Current News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:23

Crooked UBER Ripping Off Drivers Again

Uber admits it charged riders more than what drivers saw

http://www.sfexaminer.com/uber-admits-charged-riders-drivers-saw/

A recent report found that Uber has been charging riders a different price than what drivers thought they were being charged. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on May 22, 2017 1:00 am

Since last year, Uber drivers suspected that riders were being charged one price, while drivers themselves were seeing another, often lesser price when the trip was done.

Turns out, drivers were right.

In a Bloomberg News interview published Friday, Uber revealed they were indeed charging riders a different amount than drivers saw as the charge for a trip.

That’s significant, Christian Perea, a San Francisco-based Uber driver said, because riders may be charged a higher amount upfront — say, $25 to go downtown — but drivers will only earn a percentage off a smaller charge, like $20, when a trip is complete.
Uber pockets the difference, Perea said.

“More often than not, the driver would end up earning less on that ride then what Uber charged you, the passenger,” Perea said, because the driver would take a more efficient route than Uber’s upfront pricing system “guessed” the driver would take.

“It was in Uber’s interest to charge a little higher,” he added.

Perea is also a writer for the blog The Rideshare Guy, followed religiously by thousands of Lyft and Uber drivers. In September last year, and other times since, Perea and Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy blog, calculated fares and fees from many drivers to reveal Uber showed different prices to drivers and riders.

In a statement to the San Francisco Examiner, an Uber spokesperson wrote, “We price routes differently based on our understanding of riders’ choices so we can serve more people in more places at fares they can afford.”

Uber sent an email to its drivers on May 19, and listed a number of changes to how it shows driver earnings, including more transparency, seemingly in response to this issue.

“These changes reflect that there are times when what a rider pays may be higher or lower than what you earn for a trip,” Uber wrote in the email to its drivers.

Riders will “always know the cost of a trip before requesting a ride,” the spokesperson added, and drivers will “earn consistently for the work they perform with full transparency” into what a rider pays and what Uber makes on every trip.

Perea said some newer Uber drivers may not mind the new pay structure, and he lauded Uber’s recent move toward transparency.

However, he also said that Uber has justified rate cuts for drivers saying the company needed to lower prices to entice riders. Charging riders more, he said, runs counter to that argument.

“As a driver I just spent the last four years through six price cuts having my pay basically trimmed to the point where it’s terrible,” he said. “Being told we need to ‘lower the prices’ so more people will take Uber.”

“We knew it was bull the whole time,” he said.

Tags: Uberdriver rip-offfraud
Categories: Labor News

Swedish Port Bosses and Exporters Want Government To Intervene Against Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU)

Current News - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 14:17

Swedish Port Bosses and Exporters Want Government To Intervene Against Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU)

Escalating Dockworkers’ Conflict Now Threatens Swedish Economy
http://gcaptain.com/escalating-dockworkers-conflict-now-threatens-swedis...

May 19, 2017 by Bloomberg

Container capacity at APM Terminals’ facility in the Port of Gothenburg has fallen 80% in the past six months due to the labour dispute. Photo credit: Port of Gothenburg
By Niclas Rolander and Hanna Hoikkala (Bloomberg) — As a drawn-out labor conflict at the Nordic region’s largest port escalates, some of Sweden’s largest exporters are warning they may be forced to find alternative harbors abroad to safeguard shipments.

Container capacity at A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S’ APM Terminals facility in Gothenburg has in the past six months dropped to 80 percent of the normal weekly level of 10,000 containers due to a conflict with the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union. It could drop to 40 percent in the coming days as APM plans a partial lockout in response to the industrial action.

The port handles about half of Sweden’s total container trade, so the stakes are high.

SKF AB, the world’s largest maker of ball bearings, is warning that it may need to permanently relocate shipments to ports in northern Europe if the conflict drags on. Stora Enso Oyj, whose paper, pulp and sawed-wood products account for 10 percent of the terminal’s volumes, is calling on the government to step in to help resolve the conflict.

“The port’s operation is crucial for us to be able to ship our forestry products to global markets in a cost-efficient way,” Stora Enso Chief Executive Officer Karl-Henrik Sundstrom said in a letter to the government.

Having to relocate shipments from the busiest and largest port in Scandinavia could pose a major challenge for an economy such as Sweden’s, where exports represent 44 percent of economic output. Exporters would probably have to send their goods by truck to German ports such as Hamburg and Bremerhaven, Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Antwerp in Belgium. That would add time and drive up costs.

Higher Costs

While some goods can be shipped from southern Swedish ports such as Varberg and Helsingborg, they don’t have the capacity to handle any larger volumes.

Theo Kjellberg, a spokesman for Gothenburg-based SKF, said that means the company is considering ports further south in Europe. Still. “that would require longer road transports, which would increase costs for everyone,” he said.

APM Terminals has warned of a partial lockout from May 19 until June 30, in response to blockades imposed by local 4 of the dockworkers’ union, which is seeking to become a party to a collective bargaining agreement that’s signed by the Transport Workers’ Union among other demands. During the lockout, the terminal will offer “only a limited daytime service,” according to APM.

The terminal has had a dialogue with 240 of its customers, and has the understanding of all of these, even as they could now be forced to find alternative solutions next week, according to spokeswoman Annika Hilmersson.

Not Talking

“We’re facing a very dramatic escalation of the conflict,” said Erik Helgeson, spokesman of the dockworkers’ local. “The actions the employer is threatening to take are far more wide-reaching than anything we’ve done since last year.”

The union, which organizes 85 percent of workers at the terminal, claims that APM’s management has introduced an anti-union policy and delayed overtime payments.

As for a potential solution?

“It’s not realistic as long as we aren’t even talking to each other,” he said.

The union has rejected several proposals over the past year and its continued action is now having “severe national consequences,” APM Terminals Gothenburg CEO Henrik Kristensen said in an emailed response to questions.

The dockworkers local “has never in the past had a labor agreement and since the union doesn’t want to reach a legal agreement, APM Terminals calls upon the government to intervene,” he said.

Support Union Longshoremen shared Hamn4an's photo.
https://www.facebook.com/151286914891216/posts/1385948684758360

November 15, 2016 ·

Hamn4an
November 15, 2016 ·
LIKE AND SHARE TO SUPPORT THE STRIKE!
The port operator APM Terminals Gothenburg today rejected all demands from the Swedish Dockworkers' Union, which organizes 85% of the dockworkers at the container terminal. We are now forced to increase the pressure and step up industrial action to resolve the problems in the workplace.
As of 14.00 today, the dockworkers in the biggest port in Scandinavia are on strike. We need your support. Do you support the strike? Like and share!

#backastrejken #hamn4an #svenskahamnarbetarförbundet

About a year ago, APM Terminals Gothenburg adopted a very aggressive new personnel policy. The terminal management has shown absolutely no respect or concern for it's employees, and has been unwilling to compromise in the extended negotiations that have dragged on since last winter.

Our demands to APM Terminals are of a very basic nature:

GUARANTEE TRADE UNION RIGHTS
The SDU demands written guarantees that the company will grant trade unions the right to freely form its’ negotiating delegations and to continuously inform its’ members on current issues and developments. Company dictates, interferences and sanctions must end.
.
RESPECT THE JURISDICTION AND THE RIGHT TO OUR JOBS
The SDU demands an immediate stop to the company’s practice of sporadically delegating dockworkers’ or mooring crew’s tasks to manage reefers or secure ships to other parts of the workforce.

HONOR STANDING AGREEMENTS
The SDU demands that dockworkers who were promised compensation for extra work hours during a period of changing work patterns be paid immediately.

STOP USING SICK OR AGING CASUAL DOCKWORKERS AS BARGAINING CHIPS
The SDU demands their 60-year old member immediately receives previously agreed upon retraining for less physically demanding tasks. All cynical counter-demands for collective ¨no strike”-clauses or concessions regarding terms and conditions must be dropped.

RE-ESTABLISH SYSTEMATIC HEALTH & SAFETY COOPERATION
The SDU demands written guarantees of union H&S officer participation in all future risk assessments and accident enquiries involving blue-collar workers.

ACKNOWLEDGE VALID LAWS AND CONTRACTS CONCERNING VACATION, PARENTAL LEAVE AND TIME BANK APPLICATIONS
The SDU demands written guarantees that APMT will henceforth adhere to the time limits and rules in the Annual Leave Act, the Parental Leave Act, and the local time bank CBA. The stress and pressure inflicted on dockworker families due to delayed decisions and unlawful rejections this summer cannot be repeated.

I Support The Swedish Dockworker’s Union Strike
https://me.me/i/i-support-the-strike-swedish-dockworkers-union-is-fighti...
I SUPPORT THE STRIKE! SWEDISH DOCKWORKER'S UNION IS FIGHTING FOR BASIC RIGHTS AT APMT GUARANTEE TRADE UNION RIGHTS RESPECT OUR RIGHT TO OUR JOBS HONOR STANDING AGREEMENTS AND CBAS STOP USING SICK OR AGING CASUAL DOCKERS AS BARGAINING CHIPS RE-ESTABLISH SYSTEMATIC HEALTH & SAFETY COOPERATION ABIDE BY THE ANNUAL LEAVE ACT AND THE PARENTAL LEAVE ACT LIKE AND SHARE TO SUPPORT THE STRIKE! THE PORT OPERATOR APM TERMINALS GOTHENBURG TODAY REJECTED ALL DEMANDS FROM THE SWEDISH DOCKWORKERS' UNION WHICH ORGANIZES 85% OF THE DOCKWORKERS AT THE CONTAINER TERMINAL WE ARE NOW FORCED TO INCREASE THE PRESSURE AND STEP UP INDUSTRIAL ACTION TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEMS IN THE WORKPLACE AS OF 1400 TODAY THE DOCKWORKERS IN THE BIGGEST PORT IN SCANDINAVIA ARE ON STRIKE WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT DO YOU SUPPORT THE STRIKE? LIKE AND SHARE! #BACKASTREJKEN #HAMN4AN #SVENSKAHAMNARBETARFÖRBUNDET ABOUT A YEAR AGO APM TERMINALS GOTHENBURG ADOPTED A VERY AGGRESSIVE NEW PERSONNEL POLICY THE TERMINAL MANAGEMENT HAS SHOWN ABSOLUTELY NO RESPECT OR CONCERN FOR IT'S EMPLOYEES AND HAS BEEN UNWILLING TO COMPROMISE IN THE EXTENDED NEGOTIATIONS THAT HAVE DRAGGED ON SINCE LAST WINTER OUR DEMANDS TO APM TERMINALS ARE OF A VERY BASIC NATURE GUARANTEE TRADE UNION RIGHTS THE SDU DEMANDS WRITTEN GUARANTEES THAT THE COMPANY WILL GRANT TRADE UNIONS THE RIGHT TO FREELY FORM ITS’ NEGOTIATING DELEGATIONS AND TO CONTINUOUSLY INFORM ITS’ MEMBERS ON CURRENT ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS COMPANY DICTATES INTERFERENCES AND SANCTIONS MUST END RESPECT THE JURISDICTION AND THE RIGHT TO OUR JOBS THE SDU DEMANDS AN IMMEDIATE STOP TO THE COMPANY’S PRACTICE OF SPORADICALLY DELEGATING DOCKWORKERS’ OR MOORING CREW’S TASKS TO MANAGE REEFERS OR SECURE SHIPS TO OTHER PARTS OF THE WORKFORCE HONOR STANDING AGREEMENTS THE SDU DEMANDS THAT DOCKWORKERS WHO WERE PROMISED COMPENSATION FOR EXTRA WORK HOURS DURING A PERIOD OF CHANGING WORK PATTERNS BE PAID IMMEDIATELY STOP USING SICK OR AGING CASUAL DOCKWORKERS AS BARGAINING CHIPS THE SDU DEMANDS THEIR 60-YEAR OLD MEMBER IMMEDIATELY RECEIVES PREVIOUSLY AGREED UPON RETRAINING FOR LESS PHYSICALLY DEMANDING TASKS ALL CYNICAL COUNTER-DEMANDS FOR COLLECTIVE ¨NO STRIKE”-CLAUSES OR CONCESSIONS REGARDING TERMS AND CONDITIONS MUST BE DROPPED RE-ESTABLISH SYSTEMATIC HEALTH & SAFETY COOPERATION THE SDU DEMANDS WRITTEN GUARANTEES OF UNION H&S OFFICER PARTICIPATION IN ALL FUTURE RISK ASSESSMENTS AND ACCIDENT ENQUIRIES INVOLVING BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS ACKNOWLEDGE VALID LAWS AND CONTRACTS CONCERNING VACATION PARENTAL LEAVE AND TIME BANK APPLICATIONS THE SDU DEMANDS WRITTEN GUARANTEES THAT APMT WILL HENCEFORTH ADHERE TO THE TIME LIMITS AND RULES IN THE ANNUAL LEAVE ACT THE PARENTAL LEAVE ACT AND THE LOCAL TIME BANK CBA THE STRESS AND PRESSURE INFLICTED ON DOCKWORKER FAMILIES DUE TO DELAYED DECISIONS AND UNLAWFUL REJECTIONS THIS SUMMER CANNOT BE REPEATED MEME

Swedish Dockworkers’ Union: Born Fighting Bosses and Bureaucrats
http://www.leftvoice.org/Swedish-Dockworkers-Union-Born-Fighting-Bosses-...

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU), or Svenska Hamnarbetarförbundet (HAMN) in Swedish, has been shaped by decades of rank and file dockworkers’ rebellion, bureaucratic expulsions from a general transport union and a long history of international solidarity.
Sean Robertson
February 22, 2017
0

"Enighet ger segur" (Unity brings Victory) - Flag of SDU Local 4

For decades, Swedish dockworkers were members of the Swedish Transport Workers Union (STWU, known in Sweden as the Svenska Transportarbetareförbundet or simply Transport). But from the 1950s, the increasingly rebellious and militant nature of Swedish dockers ran into the obstacle of the STWU, a union which had become highly bureaucratic and unresponsive to the needs of dockworkers. Dockers grew increasingly angry at the way STWU leaders repeatedly ignored and overruled the opposition of elected dockworker representatives and agreed to sub-standard collective bargaining agreements against their wishes.

In 1951, dockworkers in Gothenburg went on strike in opposition to the STWU plans to accept the employer’s compromise agreement. STWU leaders then put a new agreement to an ‘advisory’ vote that was ‘non binding’ on the leadership. Dockers later discovered that this was all a charade, as STWU leaders had already signed the agreement before the ‘advisory’ vote was even taken.

In 1954, STWU leaders put a draft agreement that had already been rejected by dockworker negotiators to a membership vote. The result was 3366 votes against, 469 in favor and 1654 non-votes. Despite this massive ‘No’ vote, STWU leaders argued that the 1654 non-votes counted as affirmative votes and, as less than a two-thirds majority voted ‘No’, the agreement had in fact been approved. This maneuver triggered a nationwide dock strike which saw ‘illegal’ strikers threatened with expulsion from the union and individual strikers and local STWU dockworker branches fined by the Labor Court.

Similarly, despite unanimous rejections by dockworker negotiating delegations of proposed settlements in 1961 and 1966, STWU national leaders again approved sub-standard agreements over the heads of Swedish dockers.

Enter Hans “Hoffa” Eriksson

For many Swedish dockers, the election of Hans Eriksson as STWU President in 1968 was the last straw. Eriksson soon earned the nickname “Hoffa” after the U.S. Teamsters leader and mobster Jimmy Hoffa. Just like his U.S. counterpart, Eriksson was known for his close friendships with noted employers and his virulent anti-communism. Eriksson was eventually caught holidaying on the Canary Islands of Spain in early 1976 while Swedish unions were boycotting General Franco’s Spain, all with flights and accommodation paid for by Swedish employers. In January 1980 he would be dismissed from all SWTU duties after a dubious loan for an apartment, a lavish 50th birthday party paid for by union funds, and numerous travel allowance irregularities were discovered.

Hans Hoffa Eriksson

As president, Eriksson moved to further bureaucratize and undermine democracy in the STWU at the union’s 1969 Congress. He proposed that local representatives, known as “ombudsmen”, be hired instead of elected by members, that local district structures be replaced by merging them into larger regional structures overseen by appointed ombudsmen, and that most membership meetings be abolished.

Eriksson set out to have these new large union departments ready by the end of February 1972. However, northern dockworkers defied these plans and told him that they would keep the existing set up. “Hoffa” responded by expelling fifteen separate departments, with over 1000 members, from the STWU.

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union is born

In November 1972, the excluded, mainly northern, departments of expelled STWU dockers formed the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU). Other dockworkers from across the country soon joined them.

Stockholm dockworkers’ leader Lennart Johnsson had led the fight against expulsions at the STWU’s August 1972 Congress. For his efforts, Eriksson expelled him from the STWU in January 1973 and targeted the STWU dockers branch in Stockholm for dissolution. Over 350 dockers responded by walking out of the STWU and joining the SDU. The STWU was left with only 37 dockworkers in Stockholm.

Similar events occurred in Gothenburg. After local dockers leader and Communist Party member Karl Hallgren was stripped of STWU membership, the members of the “red” Gothenburg dockers branch of the STWU left en masse to join the SDU.

The newly formed dockers’ union soon represented over half of the country’s dockworkers and the vast majority in Sweden’s largest port of Gothenburg.

1968 and all that

Along with their experiences in the increasingly bureaucratic STWU, dockworkers were also influenced by the industrial ferment and political radicalization of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Although nothing like the French general strike of 1968 or Italy’s ‘hot autumn’ of 1969, Sweden witnessed its own strike wave in late 1969 and early 1970. An outbreak of wildcat strikes began with a successful week-long strike of Gothenburg dockers in November 1969. This action sparked a three-month wave of wildcat strikes which saw miners, forestry workers, metal and auto workers, airport baggage handlers and civil servants all taking action. It was another strike by Gothenburg dockworkers in February 1970 that became the last major action before the strike wave petered out.

Along with industrial unrest, Sweden also saw its share of political ferment. When the Eurocommunist majority of the 16,000 member Communist Party changed the party’s name in 1967 to the Left Party - Communists (VKP - Vänsterpartiet - Kommunisterna), pro-China forces left the VKP and established a new Maoist organization. This organization, later known as the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP - Sveriges Kommunistiska Parti), came to dominate the militant wing of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Splits in the VKP’s youth wing gave birth to other new groups such as the “soft-Maoist” Communist League (FK - Förbundet Kommunist) in 1970. Both the SKP and FK quickly grew to around 1,500-2,000 members each.

Some of this ferment was felt on the Swedish waterfront. By the early 1970s, a number of influential VKP members such as Karl Hallgren were well established on the docks, the Maoist SKP and other radical groups had a number of dockworker members, while the “proletarianization campaign” of the FK was encouraging radical students to get jobs in the factories and on the docks.

One thing was certain. Any new dockers’ union formed in this climate of industrial and political unrest was bound to give the employing class nightmares.

Membership democracy

While the influence on the SDU of this militancy and radicalism cannot be denied, it was what dockers had endured during their time in the STWU that was most telling. SDU members sought to ensure that the decisions of elected dockworker representatives would never be ignored and overruled by an unaccountable leadership again.

The real power in the SDU resides in the thirteen local autonomous branches of the union, not in a national apparatus. Decision making in the 1,400-strong union is bottom-up not top-down, with all important decisions on negotiations, signing agreements and taking industrial action being taken by vote at membership meetings. All elected SDU officials are required to continue working in their jobs on the docks while they fulfill their representative duties. The salary of the SDU National President is set by the SDU Congress, must reflect the salaries of rank-and-file dockworkers and only rise in line with industry pay rises. These measures of democracy and accountability stand in stark contrast to what the rest of the Swedish union movement experiences.

Fighting for a collective agreement

Along with its unique member democracy, the SDU is also known its militancy. The union earned this reputation during its first two major struggles for a separate collective agreement in 1974 and 1980.

The fledgling SDU was first tested industrially during wage negotiations in 1974. Both port employers and the STWU knew how important this would be for the new union, and the STWU knew it was under pressure to achieve a decent agreement for dockworkers.

Both the SDU and STWU held separate one-day strikes. But realizing that it would not win the right to sign collective agreements without a serious fight, the SDU began an indefinite strike in late April 1974. While the SDU was out, the STWU signed an agreement which gave dockers a pay rise six times that of agreements signed by other unions that same year. After 19 days, SDU members reluctantly voted to return to work. While the SDU’s strike helped all dockworkers obtain substantial pay rises, the union was left without its own agreement with the port employers.

The SDU fought again for a separate agreement in 1980. An indefinite strike began on May 13, but the strike was soon wracked by the traditional divide between the smaller, more conservative and generally northern ports and the larger militant ports such as Stockholm and Gothenburg in the south. One small port refused to go on strike and another opted to do limited work. While dockworkers in the major ports in the south fought on, other northern SDU departments started trickling back to work.

After six weeks on strike, June 12 saw SDU dockworkers return to work. Dockers had won decent wage rises, but the SDU was again unable to secure its own separate agreement with the employers.

International solidarity

Around the world, the SDU is perhaps best known for its one-week blockade of Israeli shipping in June 2010 after commandos stormed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla a month earlier. But the union’s track record of international solidarity action runs much deeper than this.

Within two years of its formation, the SDU took action against the Chilean military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In the autumn of 1974, the SDU refused to unload any Chilean copper for one whole month. On March 1, 1976, the SDU launched a three-month blockade of all Chilean imports to Sweden, and exactly one year later, the SDU launched another three month blockade, this time stopping Chilean imports to Sweden and Swedish exports to Chile.

In 1985, the SDU targeted the apartheid regime in South Africa. For all of September, the union refused to unload any South African goods. However, on September 8, 1985, STWU members broke this blockade when volunteers called in for weekend overtime unloaded South African goods in the port of Helsingborg. While many STWU members supported the apartheid blockade, it is believed that STWU leaders urged local delegates and others to unload the cargo, a decision fueled in part by continuing rivalry between the SDU and STWU.

From July 1996, the SDU took weekly industrial action in support of the sacked Liverpool dockers which left all Atlantic Container Line and CAST containers immobilized on Swedish docks for 24 hours at a time.

This tradition of international solidarity still continues today. One recent example is the 24 hour blockade in Gothenburg in May 2012 held in a show of support for striking dockers in Tilbury outside of London.

While internationalism seems to come easy for the SDU, becoming part of an international network of transport workers has proved more difficult.

When the SDU tried to join the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in 1974, the STWU stood in its way. The STWU leaned on a “national sovereignty clause” in the ITF constitution which was first introduced in 1946 in the lead up to the Cold War. This clause gives existing ITF members in one country the power to stop other unions from that same country from affiliating. So when the SDU expressed its intention to apply for ITF affiliation, it was quietly told that there was no chance of the union being affiliated.

The SDU then became involved in attempts to build an international dockworkers network. A series of international meetings were held between 1978 and 1986, including one in Gothenburg in 1980. These efforts were revived after the defeat of the Liverpool dockers’ dispute in 1998. A conference held in Gothenburg in 1999 decided to establish the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), which was officially founded a year later.

With its vibrant member democracy and its record of militancy and international solidarity action, the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union continues to be both a thorn in the side of the port employers and an example for other workers. Nevertheless, the SDU does have its problems. It is still plagued by the divide between the smaller, more conservative ports mainly in the north and the larger militant ports of Stockholm and Gothenburg in the south. In its 45-year existence, the union is yet to win the right to sign a separate collective agreement with the port employers. And it proved unable to stave off the privatization that enabled APM Terminals win its port lease in Gothenburg in 2012. However, compared to other unions in the Swedish labor movement, the SDU is a breath of fresh air.

Tags: Swedish Dockworkers Union (SDU)strikePort of Gothenburg
Categories: Labor News

Swedish Port Bosses and Exporters Want Government To Intervene Against Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU)

Current News - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 14:17

Swedish Port Bosses and Exporters Want Government To Intervene Against Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU)

Escalating Dockworkers’ Conflict Now Threatens Swedish Economy
http://gcaptain.com/escalating-dockworkers-conflict-now-threatens-swedis...

May 19, 2017 by Bloomberg

Container capacity at APM Terminals’ facility in the Port of Gothenburg has fallen 80% in the past six months due to the labour dispute. Photo credit: Port of Gothenburg
By Niclas Rolander and Hanna Hoikkala (Bloomberg) — As a drawn-out labor conflict at the Nordic region’s largest port escalates, some of Sweden’s largest exporters are warning they may be forced to find alternative harbors abroad to safeguard shipments.

Container capacity at A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S’ APM Terminals facility in Gothenburg has in the past six months dropped to 80 percent of the normal weekly level of 10,000 containers due to a conflict with the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union. It could drop to 40 percent in the coming days as APM plans a partial lockout in response to the industrial action.

The port handles about half of Sweden’s total container trade, so the stakes are high.

SKF AB, the world’s largest maker of ball bearings, is warning that it may need to permanently relocate shipments to ports in northern Europe if the conflict drags on. Stora Enso Oyj, whose paper, pulp and sawed-wood products account for 10 percent of the terminal’s volumes, is calling on the government to step in to help resolve the conflict.

“The port’s operation is crucial for us to be able to ship our forestry products to global markets in a cost-efficient way,” Stora Enso Chief Executive Officer Karl-Henrik Sundstrom said in a letter to the government.

Having to relocate shipments from the busiest and largest port in Scandinavia could pose a major challenge for an economy such as Sweden’s, where exports represent 44 percent of economic output. Exporters would probably have to send their goods by truck to German ports such as Hamburg and Bremerhaven, Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Antwerp in Belgium. That would add time and drive up costs.

Higher Costs

While some goods can be shipped from southern Swedish ports such as Varberg and Helsingborg, they don’t have the capacity to handle any larger volumes.

Theo Kjellberg, a spokesman for Gothenburg-based SKF, said that means the company is considering ports further south in Europe. Still. “that would require longer road transports, which would increase costs for everyone,” he said.

APM Terminals has warned of a partial lockout from May 19 until June 30, in response to blockades imposed by local 4 of the dockworkers’ union, which is seeking to become a party to a collective bargaining agreement that’s signed by the Transport Workers’ Union among other demands. During the lockout, the terminal will offer “only a limited daytime service,” according to APM.

The terminal has had a dialogue with 240 of its customers, and has the understanding of all of these, even as they could now be forced to find alternative solutions next week, according to spokeswoman Annika Hilmersson.

Not Talking

“We’re facing a very dramatic escalation of the conflict,” said Erik Helgeson, spokesman of the dockworkers’ local. “The actions the employer is threatening to take are far more wide-reaching than anything we’ve done since last year.”

The union, which organizes 85 percent of workers at the terminal, claims that APM’s management has introduced an anti-union policy and delayed overtime payments.

As for a potential solution?

“It’s not realistic as long as we aren’t even talking to each other,” he said.

The union has rejected several proposals over the past year and its continued action is now having “severe national consequences,” APM Terminals Gothenburg CEO Henrik Kristensen said in an emailed response to questions.

The dockworkers local “has never in the past had a labor agreement and since the union doesn’t want to reach a legal agreement, APM Terminals calls upon the government to intervene,” he said.

Support Union Longshoremen shared Hamn4an's photo.
https://www.facebook.com/151286914891216/posts/1385948684758360

November 15, 2016 ·

Hamn4an
November 15, 2016 ·
LIKE AND SHARE TO SUPPORT THE STRIKE!
The port operator APM Terminals Gothenburg today rejected all demands from the Swedish Dockworkers' Union, which organizes 85% of the dockworkers at the container terminal. We are now forced to increase the pressure and step up industrial action to resolve the problems in the workplace.
As of 14.00 today, the dockworkers in the biggest port in Scandinavia are on strike. We need your support. Do you support the strike? Like and share!

#backastrejken #hamn4an #svenskahamnarbetarförbundet

About a year ago, APM Terminals Gothenburg adopted a very aggressive new personnel policy. The terminal management has shown absolutely no respect or concern for it's employees, and has been unwilling to compromise in the extended negotiations that have dragged on since last winter.

Our demands to APM Terminals are of a very basic nature:

GUARANTEE TRADE UNION RIGHTS
The SDU demands written guarantees that the company will grant trade unions the right to freely form its’ negotiating delegations and to continuously inform its’ members on current issues and developments. Company dictates, interferences and sanctions must end.
.
RESPECT THE JURISDICTION AND THE RIGHT TO OUR JOBS
The SDU demands an immediate stop to the company’s practice of sporadically delegating dockworkers’ or mooring crew’s tasks to manage reefers or secure ships to other parts of the workforce.

HONOR STANDING AGREEMENTS
The SDU demands that dockworkers who were promised compensation for extra work hours during a period of changing work patterns be paid immediately.

STOP USING SICK OR AGING CASUAL DOCKWORKERS AS BARGAINING CHIPS
The SDU demands their 60-year old member immediately receives previously agreed upon retraining for less physically demanding tasks. All cynical counter-demands for collective ¨no strike”-clauses or concessions regarding terms and conditions must be dropped.

RE-ESTABLISH SYSTEMATIC HEALTH & SAFETY COOPERATION
The SDU demands written guarantees of union H&S officer participation in all future risk assessments and accident enquiries involving blue-collar workers.

ACKNOWLEDGE VALID LAWS AND CONTRACTS CONCERNING VACATION, PARENTAL LEAVE AND TIME BANK APPLICATIONS
The SDU demands written guarantees that APMT will henceforth adhere to the time limits and rules in the Annual Leave Act, the Parental Leave Act, and the local time bank CBA. The stress and pressure inflicted on dockworker families due to delayed decisions and unlawful rejections this summer cannot be repeated.

I Support The Swedish Dockworker’s Union Strike
https://me.me/i/i-support-the-strike-swedish-dockworkers-union-is-fighti...
I SUPPORT THE STRIKE! SWEDISH DOCKWORKER'S UNION IS FIGHTING FOR BASIC RIGHTS AT APMT GUARANTEE TRADE UNION RIGHTS RESPECT OUR RIGHT TO OUR JOBS HONOR STANDING AGREEMENTS AND CBAS STOP USING SICK OR AGING CASUAL DOCKERS AS BARGAINING CHIPS RE-ESTABLISH SYSTEMATIC HEALTH & SAFETY COOPERATION ABIDE BY THE ANNUAL LEAVE ACT AND THE PARENTAL LEAVE ACT LIKE AND SHARE TO SUPPORT THE STRIKE! THE PORT OPERATOR APM TERMINALS GOTHENBURG TODAY REJECTED ALL DEMANDS FROM THE SWEDISH DOCKWORKERS' UNION WHICH ORGANIZES 85% OF THE DOCKWORKERS AT THE CONTAINER TERMINAL WE ARE NOW FORCED TO INCREASE THE PRESSURE AND STEP UP INDUSTRIAL ACTION TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEMS IN THE WORKPLACE AS OF 1400 TODAY THE DOCKWORKERS IN THE BIGGEST PORT IN SCANDINAVIA ARE ON STRIKE WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT DO YOU SUPPORT THE STRIKE? LIKE AND SHARE! #BACKASTREJKEN #HAMN4AN #SVENSKAHAMNARBETARFÖRBUNDET ABOUT A YEAR AGO APM TERMINALS GOTHENBURG ADOPTED A VERY AGGRESSIVE NEW PERSONNEL POLICY THE TERMINAL MANAGEMENT HAS SHOWN ABSOLUTELY NO RESPECT OR CONCERN FOR IT'S EMPLOYEES AND HAS BEEN UNWILLING TO COMPROMISE IN THE EXTENDED NEGOTIATIONS THAT HAVE DRAGGED ON SINCE LAST WINTER OUR DEMANDS TO APM TERMINALS ARE OF A VERY BASIC NATURE GUARANTEE TRADE UNION RIGHTS THE SDU DEMANDS WRITTEN GUARANTEES THAT THE COMPANY WILL GRANT TRADE UNIONS THE RIGHT TO FREELY FORM ITS’ NEGOTIATING DELEGATIONS AND TO CONTINUOUSLY INFORM ITS’ MEMBERS ON CURRENT ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS COMPANY DICTATES INTERFERENCES AND SANCTIONS MUST END RESPECT THE JURISDICTION AND THE RIGHT TO OUR JOBS THE SDU DEMANDS AN IMMEDIATE STOP TO THE COMPANY’S PRACTICE OF SPORADICALLY DELEGATING DOCKWORKERS’ OR MOORING CREW’S TASKS TO MANAGE REEFERS OR SECURE SHIPS TO OTHER PARTS OF THE WORKFORCE HONOR STANDING AGREEMENTS THE SDU DEMANDS THAT DOCKWORKERS WHO WERE PROMISED COMPENSATION FOR EXTRA WORK HOURS DURING A PERIOD OF CHANGING WORK PATTERNS BE PAID IMMEDIATELY STOP USING SICK OR AGING CASUAL DOCKWORKERS AS BARGAINING CHIPS THE SDU DEMANDS THEIR 60-YEAR OLD MEMBER IMMEDIATELY RECEIVES PREVIOUSLY AGREED UPON RETRAINING FOR LESS PHYSICALLY DEMANDING TASKS ALL CYNICAL COUNTER-DEMANDS FOR COLLECTIVE ¨NO STRIKE”-CLAUSES OR CONCESSIONS REGARDING TERMS AND CONDITIONS MUST BE DROPPED RE-ESTABLISH SYSTEMATIC HEALTH & SAFETY COOPERATION THE SDU DEMANDS WRITTEN GUARANTEES OF UNION H&S OFFICER PARTICIPATION IN ALL FUTURE RISK ASSESSMENTS AND ACCIDENT ENQUIRIES INVOLVING BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS ACKNOWLEDGE VALID LAWS AND CONTRACTS CONCERNING VACATION PARENTAL LEAVE AND TIME BANK APPLICATIONS THE SDU DEMANDS WRITTEN GUARANTEES THAT APMT WILL HENCEFORTH ADHERE TO THE TIME LIMITS AND RULES IN THE ANNUAL LEAVE ACT THE PARENTAL LEAVE ACT AND THE LOCAL TIME BANK CBA THE STRESS AND PRESSURE INFLICTED ON DOCKWORKER FAMILIES DUE TO DELAYED DECISIONS AND UNLAWFUL REJECTIONS THIS SUMMER CANNOT BE REPEATED MEME

Swedish Dockworkers’ Union: Born Fighting Bosses and Bureaucrats
http://www.leftvoice.org/Swedish-Dockworkers-Union-Born-Fighting-Bosses-...

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU), or Svenska Hamnarbetarförbundet (HAMN) in Swedish, has been shaped by decades of rank and file dockworkers’ rebellion, bureaucratic expulsions from a general transport union and a long history of international solidarity.
Sean Robertson
February 22, 2017
0

"Enighet ger segur" (Unity brings Victory) - Flag of SDU Local 4

For decades, Swedish dockworkers were members of the Swedish Transport Workers Union (STWU, known in Sweden as the Svenska Transportarbetareförbundet or simply Transport). But from the 1950s, the increasingly rebellious and militant nature of Swedish dockers ran into the obstacle of the STWU, a union which had become highly bureaucratic and unresponsive to the needs of dockworkers. Dockers grew increasingly angry at the way STWU leaders repeatedly ignored and overruled the opposition of elected dockworker representatives and agreed to sub-standard collective bargaining agreements against their wishes.

In 1951, dockworkers in Gothenburg went on strike in opposition to the STWU plans to accept the employer’s compromise agreement. STWU leaders then put a new agreement to an ‘advisory’ vote that was ‘non binding’ on the leadership. Dockers later discovered that this was all a charade, as STWU leaders had already signed the agreement before the ‘advisory’ vote was even taken.

In 1954, STWU leaders put a draft agreement that had already been rejected by dockworker negotiators to a membership vote. The result was 3366 votes against, 469 in favor and 1654 non-votes. Despite this massive ‘No’ vote, STWU leaders argued that the 1654 non-votes counted as affirmative votes and, as less than a two-thirds majority voted ‘No’, the agreement had in fact been approved. This maneuver triggered a nationwide dock strike which saw ‘illegal’ strikers threatened with expulsion from the union and individual strikers and local STWU dockworker branches fined by the Labor Court.

Similarly, despite unanimous rejections by dockworker negotiating delegations of proposed settlements in 1961 and 1966, STWU national leaders again approved sub-standard agreements over the heads of Swedish dockers.

Enter Hans “Hoffa” Eriksson

For many Swedish dockers, the election of Hans Eriksson as STWU President in 1968 was the last straw. Eriksson soon earned the nickname “Hoffa” after the U.S. Teamsters leader and mobster Jimmy Hoffa. Just like his U.S. counterpart, Eriksson was known for his close friendships with noted employers and his virulent anti-communism. Eriksson was eventually caught holidaying on the Canary Islands of Spain in early 1976 while Swedish unions were boycotting General Franco’s Spain, all with flights and accommodation paid for by Swedish employers. In January 1980 he would be dismissed from all SWTU duties after a dubious loan for an apartment, a lavish 50th birthday party paid for by union funds, and numerous travel allowance irregularities were discovered.

Hans Hoffa Eriksson

As president, Eriksson moved to further bureaucratize and undermine democracy in the STWU at the union’s 1969 Congress. He proposed that local representatives, known as “ombudsmen”, be hired instead of elected by members, that local district structures be replaced by merging them into larger regional structures overseen by appointed ombudsmen, and that most membership meetings be abolished.

Eriksson set out to have these new large union departments ready by the end of February 1972. However, northern dockworkers defied these plans and told him that they would keep the existing set up. “Hoffa” responded by expelling fifteen separate departments, with over 1000 members, from the STWU.

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union is born

In November 1972, the excluded, mainly northern, departments of expelled STWU dockers formed the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU). Other dockworkers from across the country soon joined them.

Stockholm dockworkers’ leader Lennart Johnsson had led the fight against expulsions at the STWU’s August 1972 Congress. For his efforts, Eriksson expelled him from the STWU in January 1973 and targeted the STWU dockers branch in Stockholm for dissolution. Over 350 dockers responded by walking out of the STWU and joining the SDU. The STWU was left with only 37 dockworkers in Stockholm.

Similar events occurred in Gothenburg. After local dockers leader and Communist Party member Karl Hallgren was stripped of STWU membership, the members of the “red” Gothenburg dockers branch of the STWU left en masse to join the SDU.

The newly formed dockers’ union soon represented over half of the country’s dockworkers and the vast majority in Sweden’s largest port of Gothenburg.

1968 and all that

Along with their experiences in the increasingly bureaucratic STWU, dockworkers were also influenced by the industrial ferment and political radicalization of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Although nothing like the French general strike of 1968 or Italy’s ‘hot autumn’ of 1969, Sweden witnessed its own strike wave in late 1969 and early 1970. An outbreak of wildcat strikes began with a successful week-long strike of Gothenburg dockers in November 1969. This action sparked a three-month wave of wildcat strikes which saw miners, forestry workers, metal and auto workers, airport baggage handlers and civil servants all taking action. It was another strike by Gothenburg dockworkers in February 1970 that became the last major action before the strike wave petered out.

Along with industrial unrest, Sweden also saw its share of political ferment. When the Eurocommunist majority of the 16,000 member Communist Party changed the party’s name in 1967 to the Left Party - Communists (VKP - Vänsterpartiet - Kommunisterna), pro-China forces left the VKP and established a new Maoist organization. This organization, later known as the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP - Sveriges Kommunistiska Parti), came to dominate the militant wing of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Splits in the VKP’s youth wing gave birth to other new groups such as the “soft-Maoist” Communist League (FK - Förbundet Kommunist) in 1970. Both the SKP and FK quickly grew to around 1,500-2,000 members each.

Some of this ferment was felt on the Swedish waterfront. By the early 1970s, a number of influential VKP members such as Karl Hallgren were well established on the docks, the Maoist SKP and other radical groups had a number of dockworker members, while the “proletarianization campaign” of the FK was encouraging radical students to get jobs in the factories and on the docks.

One thing was certain. Any new dockers’ union formed in this climate of industrial and political unrest was bound to give the employing class nightmares.

Membership democracy

While the influence on the SDU of this militancy and radicalism cannot be denied, it was what dockers had endured during their time in the STWU that was most telling. SDU members sought to ensure that the decisions of elected dockworker representatives would never be ignored and overruled by an unaccountable leadership again.

The real power in the SDU resides in the thirteen local autonomous branches of the union, not in a national apparatus. Decision making in the 1,400-strong union is bottom-up not top-down, with all important decisions on negotiations, signing agreements and taking industrial action being taken by vote at membership meetings. All elected SDU officials are required to continue working in their jobs on the docks while they fulfill their representative duties. The salary of the SDU National President is set by the SDU Congress, must reflect the salaries of rank-and-file dockworkers and only rise in line with industry pay rises. These measures of democracy and accountability stand in stark contrast to what the rest of the Swedish union movement experiences.

Fighting for a collective agreement

Along with its unique member democracy, the SDU is also known its militancy. The union earned this reputation during its first two major struggles for a separate collective agreement in 1974 and 1980.

The fledgling SDU was first tested industrially during wage negotiations in 1974. Both port employers and the STWU knew how important this would be for the new union, and the STWU knew it was under pressure to achieve a decent agreement for dockworkers.

Both the SDU and STWU held separate one-day strikes. But realizing that it would not win the right to sign collective agreements without a serious fight, the SDU began an indefinite strike in late April 1974. While the SDU was out, the STWU signed an agreement which gave dockers a pay rise six times that of agreements signed by other unions that same year. After 19 days, SDU members reluctantly voted to return to work. While the SDU’s strike helped all dockworkers obtain substantial pay rises, the union was left without its own agreement with the port employers.

The SDU fought again for a separate agreement in 1980. An indefinite strike began on May 13, but the strike was soon wracked by the traditional divide between the smaller, more conservative and generally northern ports and the larger militant ports such as Stockholm and Gothenburg in the south. One small port refused to go on strike and another opted to do limited work. While dockworkers in the major ports in the south fought on, other northern SDU departments started trickling back to work.

After six weeks on strike, June 12 saw SDU dockworkers return to work. Dockers had won decent wage rises, but the SDU was again unable to secure its own separate agreement with the employers.

International solidarity

Around the world, the SDU is perhaps best known for its one-week blockade of Israeli shipping in June 2010 after commandos stormed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla a month earlier. But the union’s track record of international solidarity action runs much deeper than this.

Within two years of its formation, the SDU took action against the Chilean military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In the autumn of 1974, the SDU refused to unload any Chilean copper for one whole month. On March 1, 1976, the SDU launched a three-month blockade of all Chilean imports to Sweden, and exactly one year later, the SDU launched another three month blockade, this time stopping Chilean imports to Sweden and Swedish exports to Chile.

In 1985, the SDU targeted the apartheid regime in South Africa. For all of September, the union refused to unload any South African goods. However, on September 8, 1985, STWU members broke this blockade when volunteers called in for weekend overtime unloaded South African goods in the port of Helsingborg. While many STWU members supported the apartheid blockade, it is believed that STWU leaders urged local delegates and others to unload the cargo, a decision fueled in part by continuing rivalry between the SDU and STWU.

From July 1996, the SDU took weekly industrial action in support of the sacked Liverpool dockers which left all Atlantic Container Line and CAST containers immobilized on Swedish docks for 24 hours at a time.

This tradition of international solidarity still continues today. One recent example is the 24 hour blockade in Gothenburg in May 2012 held in a show of support for striking dockers in Tilbury outside of London.

While internationalism seems to come easy for the SDU, becoming part of an international network of transport workers has proved more difficult.

When the SDU tried to join the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in 1974, the STWU stood in its way. The STWU leaned on a “national sovereignty clause” in the ITF constitution which was first introduced in 1946 in the lead up to the Cold War. This clause gives existing ITF members in one country the power to stop other unions from that same country from affiliating. So when the SDU expressed its intention to apply for ITF affiliation, it was quietly told that there was no chance of the union being affiliated.

The SDU then became involved in attempts to build an international dockworkers network. A series of international meetings were held between 1978 and 1986, including one in Gothenburg in 1980. These efforts were revived after the defeat of the Liverpool dockers’ dispute in 1998. A conference held in Gothenburg in 1999 decided to establish the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), which was officially founded a year later.

With its vibrant member democracy and its record of militancy and international solidarity action, the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union continues to be both a thorn in the side of the port employers and an example for other workers. Nevertheless, the SDU does have its problems. It is still plagued by the divide between the smaller, more conservative ports mainly in the north and the larger militant ports of Stockholm and Gothenburg in the south. In its 45-year existence, the union is yet to win the right to sign a separate collective agreement with the port employers. And it proved unable to stave off the privatization that enabled APM Terminals win its port lease in Gothenburg in 2012. However, compared to other unions in the Swedish labor movement, the SDU is a breath of fresh air.

Tags: Swedish Dockworkers Union (SDU)strikePort of Gothenburg
Categories: Labor News

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SF Port seeks new bidder to save Pier 70 shipyard as layoffs mount

Current News - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 08:02

SF Port seeks new bidder to save Pier 70 shipyard as layoffs mount

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sf-port-seeks-new-bidder-save-pier-70-shipyard...

Hundreds of dock workers’ jobs are at stake as the shipyard at San Francisco’s Pier 70 is in jeopardy of closing due to a dispute between the former and current operators. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on May 18, 2017 1:00 am
A tussle between two shipyard operators may sink San Francisco’s last ship repair facility.

In a bid to save the West Coast’s largest shipyard from closing, the Port of San Francisco is scrambling to seek new operators, a move that could restore the jobs of some 230 laid-off workers, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

The shipyard, located at Pier 70, is perhaps one of the last vestiges of San Francisco’s long-fading maritime economy.

“The Port is exploring all options for this yard,” Elaine Forbes, executive director of the Port, said in an interview with the Examiner at the recent groundbreaking of the Downtown Ferry Terminal expansion.

She added, “That includes potentially bringing to the [Port] Commission a request to do a [request for proposal] for a new operator.”

As the Examiner previously reported, the former and current operators of the shipyard — multinational defense contractor BAE Systems and Washington-based Puglia Engineering Inc. — in February each filed suit against the other in separate courts over an alleged $9 million in repairs to the shipyard.

Puglia completed its purchase of the San Francisco shipyard repair business from BAE Systems on Jan. 2, on two docks at Pier 70 owned by the Port of San Francisco.

BAE Systems sold the docks for $1.

In exchange, Puglia agreed to assume $38 million in pension liability from BAE, according to court documents, as well as the cost of shipyard repair — the extent of which Puglia alleges BAE Systems did not fully disclose. BAE denies those claims.

“We are disappointed that Puglia is attempting to walk away from its obligations, ultimately letting down the dedicated employees at the shipyard,” a spokesperson for BAE Systems wrote a statement to the Examiner.

Puglia did not respond to calls for comment.

An interim operating agreement between Puglia and the Port of San Francisco aimed to keep the shipyard operational until May 28, a measure meant to give all parties time to negotiate that was led by Mayor Ed Lee.

“The mayor is determined to have a fully operational shipyard in San Francisco that will ensure good paying union jobs for The City’s residents,” the Mayor’s Office wrote in a statement, adding, “He has advised the Port to keep the shipyard operational to protect shipyard jobs and ship repair in San Francisco.”

None of the involved parties would comment on the tenor of the negotiations.

The Port said it is conducting a “thorough review” of shipyard operations and the capital condition of the facility.

In a statement, Port officials noted they are focusing “efforts toward” obtaining Port Commission authorization to seek a new operator.

“The Port anticipates that several operators will be interested in pursuing the right to long-term operations at the Shipyard,” the Port wrote in the statement.

Most of the shipyard’s workers have been laid off since the dispute began.

About 184 shipyard workers were warned of layoffs by Puglia, according to WARN Act filings, which require the documentation of mass layoffs in California. Workers speaking on condition of anonymity told the Examiner the numbers exceeded that, and only 12 or 14 workers remain employed with the shipyard to date.

Some of the workers were told by Puglia that these layoffs were “temporary,” according to emails obtained by the Examiner.

However, Puglia “collected their keys and took their cellphones,” said one worker, who declined to be named for fear of retaliation. That’s not standard practice, the worker said.

Traditionally, the shipyard lays off about 140 or so workers between ship repair jobs, the Port confirmed, but more than 220 workers have been laid off since the dispute began between Puglia and BAE Systems.

“It’s a much more serious reduction in the workforce. Much more serious,” Forbes said. She added, “That yard and the employees are our first priority. The Port is doing everything it can.”

Even those who have kept their jobs are struggling, as Puglia missed paying its workers at least once since the dispute began, according to correspondence from Puglia to workers that was obtained by the Examiner.

Where shipping and dockyard work once dominated The City’s seafront, now the piers play host to tourist attractions like Pier 39 and the Exploratorium museum.

However, until last year, the shipyard at Pier 70 was the largest active shipyard on the West Coast, and among the last survivors of a vibrant Port economy that played host to union leader Harry Bridge’s famous 1934 shipping strike that crippled San Francisco and won rights for workers.

Those who count themselves among the waterfront’s last union workers are far more imperiled.

Even in the last few years, Pier 70’s historic docks — Eureka and Dry Dock No. 2 — were capable of tall feats, like repairing titanic ships up to 54,000 tons.

Despite the decades-long decay of San Francisco’s maritime industry, business professionals believe there’s a chance it could be vibrant again.

Adam Beck, executive vice president of ship repair at Vigor — a self-described “ship repair powerhouse” with more than 2,500 employees throughout Alaska, Oregon and Washington — described the industry positively.

“I’d say, on the West Coast, the market is stable and very healthy,” Beck said.

Vigor’s clients range from naval and U.S. Coast Guard ships to Pacific Coast trading vessels.

He added that Vigor itself may be interested in the shipyard, should Puglia and the Port part ways. For now, Beck said Vigor is “trying to keep things at arm’s length” in case Puglia continues with the Port.

Perhaps San Francisco’s seemingly vanishing dock workers may see some hope after all.

Tags: SF shipyardlayoffs
Categories: Labor News

Global: Global Unions Call for G20 Commitment to Fair Globalisation

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Greece: Athens protest turns violent as general strike brings Greece to a halt

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: DW
Categories: Labor News

Greece: Workers walk off job as general strike hits

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: CTV
Categories: Labor News

Colombia: ‘Half a million’ in Colombia on strike, from the jungle to the capital

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Reports
Categories: Labor News

‘Hidden in plain sight’ in Oakland Harbor Tours Highlight Port

Current News - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:02

‘Hidden in plain sight’ in Oakland Harbor Tours Highlight Port

http://newshandle.com/hidden-in-plain-sight-port-of-oakland-offers-free-...
Free adventure aboard ferry provides participants with a rare and up-close view of the East Bay’s industrial workhorse
By Erin Baldassari
5-16-2017
ebaldassari@bayareanewsgroup.com
OAKLAND — For the third year running, the Port of Oakland on Friday launched the first of a dozen free harbor tours, giving visitors rare, upclose views of one of the East Bay’s most iconic fixtures.
More than 200 people boarded a Blue & Gold Fleet ferry boat at Jack London Square as the sun began its golden-hued decline behind the hills of Marin. Berkeley resident Jason Strauss had seen an advertisement for the tour on a billboard, he said, and jumped at the chance to see the port up close.
“The port is hidden in plain sight,” he explained. “It’s difficult to travel anywhere in the East Bay without seeing it. But it’s also difficult to see it up close.”
He continued: “And, it’s a chance to see how the port works.”
As the boat headed down the Oakland Estuary from Jack London Square, the port’s Robert Bernardo rattled off some statistics: 36 cranes line the port’s docks. Eighteen of those are “deep water berths,” which can be accessed by large cargo

Mark Matyjas, of San Francisco, and his daughter, Isabelle, enjoy the ride.

The sun sets behind the Bay Bridge as a Blue & Gold Fleet ferryboat takes more than 200 people on a tour of the Port of Oakland. To learn more about the tours, visit the port website at www. portofoakland.com.
JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO/STAFF PHOTOS

vessels. Some 6,000 truck operators visit the port’s largest terminal, Oakland International Container Terminal, each day, unloading cargo from the approximately 30 ships that come to call each week, he said. Of all of the cargo containers unloaded in the Port of Oakland, 80 percent leave on truck chassis, with trains carrying the remaining 20 percent.
It’s no coincidence that Oakland’s port is focused on container traffic, Bernardo said. That’s a product of one of the port’s early leaders, Ben Nutter, who, in the late 1960s, pioneered containerized cargo, making Oakland the first major port on the West Coast to build terminals for containers, he said. Today, the Port of Oakland is the fifth busiest container port in the country, handling 99 percent of all containerized goods in Northern California.
“Basically, Ben Nutter convinced six Japanese steamship companies to base their operations in Oakland, thus beginning the golden age of container shipping,” Bernardo said, adding that the port at that time also opened offices throughout Asia, Europe and major port cities in the U.S. “He did this through persistent negotiation, careful planning and a good understanding of the political and financial dynamics.”
The port’s story begins much earlier, in 1893, when the city of Oakland wrested ownership of the bayside land from Southern Pacific, a railroad operator. Over time, the port’s authority has grown to include the Oakland International Airport, real estate in Jack London Square, and the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, the latter of which once served as a naval supply depot and now offers stunning views of the San Francisco skyline and the Bay Bridge. To learn more about the Port of Oakland, or to sign up for a free tour, visit: www. portofoakland. com. Online registration for the free tours begin on the first Monday of each month. Contact Erin Baldassari at 510-208-6428.

A cargo ship travels in the Oakland inner harbor as Blue & Gold Fleet ferry passengers snap pictures during one of the free harbor tours of the Port of Oakland on Friday.
JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO/STAFF

Tags: Oakland Harborport of Oaklandferry boat
Categories: Labor News

Spain Approves New Port Reform Plan "Spanish union Coordinadora believes the decree poses a threat to Spanish dockworkers"

Current News - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 21:28

Spain Approves New Port Reform Plan "Spanish union Coordinadora believes the decree poses a threat to Spanish dockworkers"

http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/220022/spain-approves-new-port-ref...

The Spanish Council of Ministers approved on May 12 a new royal decree in another attempt to reform the port system in the country.

The decree will now require a majority approval in the Spanish Parliament, which is expected to be discussed on May 18.

Although the details of this decree have not been unveiled, the government has allegedly failed to include the participation of employers and workers in the drafting of the proposal, according to the International Dockworkers Council (IDC).

For this reason, Spanish union Coordinadora believes the decree poses a threat to Spanish dockworkers. As a consequence, the union has published a three-week strike advisory during the odd hours on May 24, 26, 29, 31 and June 2, 5, 7, 9.

“As in the case of the previous royal decree, IDC will continue to watch over new developments closely, and remains ready to escalate a collective response as needed,” IDC said.

In March, the Spanish Congress rejected the royal decree plan presented by the country’s Minister of Public Works.

The proposed measure, which is in line with the requirements of the European Union, was supposed to enable ports to hire non-unionized dockworkers instead of the unionized ones. This was expected to result in massive layoffs in the future.

The country’s unions postponed strikes several times, hoping that the government would engage in tripartite negotiations to solve the conflict.

Tags: Spanish union Coordinadoraderegulationunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Spain Approves New Port Reform Plan "Spanish union Coordinadora believes the decree poses a threat to Spanish dockworkers"

Current News - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 21:28

Spain Approves New Port Reform Plan "Spanish union Coordinadora believes the decree poses a threat to Spanish dockworkers"

http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/220022/spain-approves-new-port-ref...

The Spanish Council of Ministers approved on May 12 a new royal decree in another attempt to reform the port system in the country.

The decree will now require a majority approval in the Spanish Parliament, which is expected to be discussed on May 18.

Although the details of this decree have not been unveiled, the government has allegedly failed to include the participation of employers and workers in the drafting of the proposal, according to the International Dockworkers Council (IDC).

For this reason, Spanish union Coordinadora believes the decree poses a threat to Spanish dockworkers. As a consequence, the union has published a three-week strike advisory during the odd hours on May 24, 26, 29, 31 and June 2, 5, 7, 9.

“As in the case of the previous royal decree, IDC will continue to watch over new developments closely, and remains ready to escalate a collective response as needed,” IDC said.

In March, the Spanish Congress rejected the royal decree plan presented by the country’s Minister of Public Works.

The proposed measure, which is in line with the requirements of the European Union, was supposed to enable ports to hire non-unionized dockworkers instead of the unionized ones. This was expected to result in massive layoffs in the future.

The country’s unions postponed strikes several times, hoping that the government would engage in tripartite negotiations to solve the conflict.

Tags: Spanish union Coordinadoraderegulationunion busting
Categories: Labor News

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