Swedish dockers’ strike could cause ‘huge problems’ for food imports

Swedish dockers' strike could cause 'huge problems' for food imports
The Dockworkers Union will walk out on Wednesday. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT
Swedish dockworkers are set to walk out on Wednesday in a dispute that could bring harbours to a standstill and impact both exports and imports of goods to Sweden.

The Swedish Dockworkers' Union (Hamnarbetarförbundet) is set to meet representatives of employers Ports of Sweden for negotiations on Monday. But if the parties do not manage to reach an agreement, the union's 1,300 members will walk out at midnight on Wednesday.

The role of harbour staff not linked to the dockworkers' union during the strike is still unclear, but export and import companies said they were preparing for a worst-case scenario.

“Sweden is one of the world's most export-dependent countries and its economy cannot cope without functioning ports. It will certainly have a harmful impact on society,” Anna Lööf of employers' organization Association of Swedish Engineering Industries told newswire TT.

Food retailer Axfood said it receives 40 percent of its imports via the harbour in Gothenburg. “If the Swedish ports close it will cause huge problems for us,” said press officer Claes Salomonsson.

“We're talking about goods from Belgium, Germany and Holland. The strike will have a big impact and we are rerouting our traffic to transport everything by truck.”

READ ALSO: Why are strikes so rare in Sweden?

The port of Gothenburg is the largest industrial harbour in Scandinavia. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Around half of Swedish food is imported from abroad, and a large share of that arrives by boat, writes Swedish business magazine Dagens Industri. It names bananas as the food item most at risk, with a predicted shortage on supermarket shelves in less than a week.

A strike would also affect exports. Around two thirds of all Volvo cars made at the plant in Sweden leave the country via the port in Gothenburg.

“We make more than 1,000 cars a day,” said Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson. “If there's a port strike our operations will basically stop. We can only hope that this strike won't happen.”

The industrial action follows a day of strikes in January this year, and stems from a conflict that has been ongoing since 2016. The Dockworkers' Union wants to establish a collective bargaining agreement for its members with Ports of Sweden, similar to one agreed with the Swedish Transport Workers' Union, in order to negotiate issues such as working conditions.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know if you lose your job in Sweden

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