Port Strikes Begin to Affect Commerce in Marseille

File image courtesy APMT

Published Jan 23, 2020 9:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

A long-running series of rolling strikes at French seaports are beginning to take a toll. In the latest, national union CGT called for a three-day action at seven major seaports across France, including Marseille-Fos and Le Havre. 

At Marseille, the strike took the form of a multi-day blockade. "There are different procedures depending on the port, but as far as we [at Marseille] are concerned, it is the blocking of access," said the CGT secretary general for Marseille's port, Pascal Galéoté, in an op-ed. "Saturday and Sunday, the teams will be at their posts, because after observing our 72 hours we are working."

Steelmaker ArcellorMittal told selected customers Monday that its Fos-sur-Mer plant near Marseille faced impacts related to the port stoppages, rendering it likely that it would not be able to complete certain contracted orders on time. 
The disruption is the latest in a weeks-long series of strikes related to pension reforms proposed by the government of French president Emmanuel Macron. The reforms include the imposition of a single, unified pension system rather than a set of industry-by-industry plans. In response to the protests, the government has dropped a proposal to effectively increase the retirement age from 62 to 64. That concession was sufficient for some unions, but not for the CGT. 

"Contrary to what you claim, the government's strategy, its concept of dialogue and listening are not likely to appease the level of dissatisfaction and mobilization that exists in our country," wrote CGT general secretary Philippe Martinez in response to Macron's revised plan. 

So far, the strike's impact for the Marseille region alone alone exceeds $110 million, according to the chamber of commerce for Aix-Marseille-Provence.