Fruitless international meeting with APM Terminals Gothenburg - massive manning cuts and unilateral change of work patterns announced

2017-02-27 APM Terminals' international meeting with the IDC/SDU last week presented no openings. Despite indications of constructive ambitions, the employer refused to even discuss the issues at the heart of the dispute.

The meeting held on Wedenesday the 22nd of February between APM Terminals Gothenburg and the Swedish Dockworker' Union (SDU) along with the International Dockworkers' Council (IDC) was preceded by entensive correspondance. APM Terminals' CEO Henriks Kristensen demanded in the beginning of February that the SDU should call off all industrial action in order for the meeting to take place. The SDU complied as early as the 10th of February, but after Kristensen failed to respond and then added new terms another week passed until the meeting was finally confirmed.

Prior to the meeting, senior international managers from APM Terminals expressed hope of "reaching a solution to the conflict in good faith negotiations". On his part, APMT Gothenburg's CEO Kristensen asked for the union delegation to be limited to Jordi Aragunde, IDC's General Coordinator, and the SDU's local Chairman Peter Annerback, in order to have a smaller "effective and constructive" meeting.
Meanwhile, APMT Gothenburg's HR Manager Sophia Tuvesson told the Swedish newspaper Arbetaren that the company had no intentions of negotiating with the SDU at the upcoming meeting and that the company had in fact never entered into negotiations since the beginning of the dispute in the spring of 2016.

At the meeting in the evening of the 22nd of February, APM Terminals Gothenburg was represented said CEO Kristensen och HR Manager Tuvesson. There were no constructive discussions nor any attempts to seek a solution by the company. Instead Kristensen and Tuvesson made new baseless legal claims. One such statement was that that the way of working with the dockworkes practised in the other Gothenburg terminals as well in most major Swedish ports, where both the SDU and the Swedish Transport Workers' Union (STWU) participate in negotiations and the Health & Safety work, is "illegal".
The APMT representatives also claimed that they "couldn't" discuss the actual issues at the heart of the conflict, pleading they were "under mediation". There is in fact no mediation at this point, and if there was it would be highly remarkable if any external actor would want to hinder direct negotiations between the parties in the dispute.
Thus, the meeting was relatively short and pointless.

Last week, APM Terminals Gothenburg also informed it's staff that manning cuts and new work patterns had been "finalized" regarding ship operations and the yard. According to the company, the changes would be implemented as of the 3rd of April. In short, APM Terminals will cut manning on the ships from 9 to 8 dockworkers per crane and remove 25% of the dockworkers in the yard, while expecting the remaining staff to handle the same amount of volume. Working hours for all shifts will also be changed.

APM Terminals Gothenburg has barred the SDU, which organizes some 85% of the dockworkers in the workplace, from meetings as well as information about these changes. Now it is clear that the company also deems it unnecessary to reach any agreement about changing the local CBA's in question with the contract stakeholder STWU. APMT claims that it has fullfilled it's obligations by "consulting" with the STWU and is now going to proceed unilaterally with increasing the workload and changing all the work patterns in the terminal without new agreements with any union. 

According to the information passed on by the company's foremen to the dockworkers, the company now also claims to have a finalized list of a little less than a hundred dockworkers on permanent as well as temporary contracts that will be layed off as a result of the announced manning cuts and an effort to casualize the workforce. APM Terminals Gothenburg's intention, however, is not to lay off the affected dockwokers now but in June, in order for "the redundant" to be at the company's disposal during the summer holidays as their period of notice runs out.
Afftected dockworkers are still denied their right to know if they are in fact on the list in question.

On Thursday the 23rd of February, IDC delegates from the US, France, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia, Belgium, Greece and the UK met in Gothenburg to plan international solidarity action. After the IDC meeting, the SDU held a membership assembly to decide on the strategy in the APMT Gothenburg Dispute going forward. Information about the decisions taken will be presented later.