Hamburg Port and Elbe Closed as Pilot Boats Join Public Sector Strike

A public employees strike has effectively closed the Port of Hamburg, Germany’s busiest seaport and the second busiest in all of Europe, for 48 hours. Port officials began limiting vessel movements on the Elbe as of this morning and closed the port for all departing vessels later in the day with the strike expected to continue until Friday morning. The Port Authority said it had decided due to the massive restrictions imposed by the union to block the Elbe until further notice.

Germany’s Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (United Services Union or ver.di) announced what it terms a “warning strike” in its ongoing dispute over pay for state and federal public employees. The union called for work stoppages across the country and late today posted on social media saying, “Thousands of federal and local employees in many cities and communities are still on strike today for the common demands in the current collective bargaining round.”

Talks are due to resume next Monday, March 27 in Potsdam on the union contract. Ver.di is demanding a 10.5 percent wage increase, or at least €500 more per month for the approximately 2.5 million public sector employees. Media reports said the government’s offer has been five percent in two trances and a one-time payment of approximately €2,500.

The operators of the pilot tenders serving Hamburg and the Elbe announced they would be joining the work stoppage. The union had said it expected several thousand hospital employees as well as daycare center workers, city sanitation, and other services to participate in the strike. Reports said that as many as 16,000 people across Germany have joined in for the effort with the trade union planning a massive protest march crossing the Hamburg city center on Thursday. They have also called for workers at Hamburg’s airport to join in the action after security workers walked off the job last month briefly paralyzing Hamburg’s airport.