Transport workers exceeded limit amid surge in exports
Transportation workers in the United States and around the world are being pushed to their limits as a wave of exports overwhelms logistics networks. Demands for hours and time away from families have impacted workers in shipping, rail, warehousing and trucking, with shippers demanding seven-day, 24-hour operations in the area. busy port of Los Angeles.
In an interview with American shipper, Gene Seroka, Port Manager of Los Angeles, said, “The railroads are full. The warehouses are full. The port terminals are full. The ships arrive and wait to be worked on. The factories are behind in orders. This incredible demand has caused everyone across the entire value chain to drop to levels we could never have imagined, and it’s still not enough.
The brunt of the sacrifices imposed by the crisis are borne by transport workers, from ship crews to dockworkers, air freight, truck drivers and railroad workers, all vital parts of the global supply chain. Workers face brutally long shifts in jobs that are inherently dangerous. In addition, they have to deal with the pandemic, often facing quarantine far from home.
According to industry publication FreightWaves, the crisis in the supply chain, itself a product of the anarchy inherent in capitalist production, portends major risks for the entire capitalist economic system, as the results of retailers are affected by the increase transportation costs. American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) President Steve Lamar said it was an “acute shipping crisis” leading to inflation, in a letter to President Biden.
FreightWaves Editor-in-Chief Greg Miller writes, “From early 2020 to August 2021, the cost of shipping a container from the port of Ningbo (China) to the United States has increased more than eightfold from $ 3,000. at $ 26,000. The typical market price for shipping a standard 40ft container from China to Europe was between $ 4,000 and $ 8,000 in 2020, from $ 6,000 to $ 12,000 in 2021. ”The big one Majority of goods exported from China to Europe and the United States consists of clothing, household appliances and a few simple machines. A typical container full of cargo is worth around $ 40,000. An increase in shipping costs from $ 3,000 to over $ 20,000 means that the expense goes from about 8% of the total value of the goods to 60% or more.
Meanwhile, shipping giants are raking in record profits due to increased European and US demand for exports from Asia, primarily China. Shipping companies have a clear advantage over most other alternative modes of transportation, shipping more than eight times more cost effective than air freight.
To give an indication of the huge profits for workers, Denmark’s largest multinational container shipping company, Maersk, made $ 3 billion in profits last year, but is expected to make $ 16.2 billion. This year.
U.S. agricultural exporters have challenged exorbitant shipping rates and called on the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission to intervene with other agencies to investigate overpricing by shipping giants. However, no such demand has been raised on behalf of the workers, who have suffered effective pay cuts due to soaring inflation.
According to the industry-sponsored maritimeinfo.org website, an estimated 1 million shipping workers are employed on 60,000 ships around the world, and ship crews suffer from time away from their families and communities. their friends. Thirteen percent of container ship crews come from India and the Philippines, and reports show an increase in the number of suicides.
Ships handle 90 percent of global trade and at the onset of the pandemic, many ship crews were stranded at home or in port as closures were imposed. Sometimes blockages exceeded the duration of workers’ contracts, which lasted an average of four to eight months. Transpacific journeys can take anywhere from 15 to 30 days, with unloading taking about three days.
“The global supply chain is very fragile and depends as much on a sailor [from the Philippines] like it does on a truck driver to deliver goods, ”according to Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). The International Bargaining Forum, which includes the ITF, hailed a rotten deal recently imposed on union-affiliated workers on the basis of an insulting 3% pay rise next year and 1.5% the year next, an effective wage reduction in relation to inflation.
Further delays have been caused by China’s proactive measures to close the ports of Yantian and Ningbo, which are two of the four main ports, to contain outbreaks of the Delta variant of COVID-19. These necessary public health measures have saved lives and serve as an example of the actions needed to eradicate the deadly disease.
Transportation unions in the United States, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) on the west coast of the United States, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) on the east coast of the United States, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and several railway unions – sought to block workers’ resistance to long hours and intolerable conditions. Unions have been a central part of Biden’s strategy to fight workers’ opposition to new attacks and brutal working conditions and to enforce homicidal back-to-school and work campaigns.
In the two largest US ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, ships often wait up to three weeks to be unloaded. As a result, up to 70 ships remained idle near the port.
Chronic delays due to labor shortages have led to a blame game, with terminal operators blaming truck drivers who miss their appointments due to congestion, dockworkers unable to unload because empty containers clog the port and, further afield, railways unable to hand over containers due to a shortage of drivers and construction workers.
But with the port infrastructure at full capacity, all of these links are strained by record import levels. As a result, terminal operators and shipping companies want to operate in ports around the clock, like most ports around the world. However, operators are reluctant to pay the premiums they would have to pay for extended operations.
Retail giants Walmart and Amazon have looked for their own shipping capacity, but with bottlenecks in nearly every port in the United States, it’s doubtful their measures will be effective. As a result, the continued delay of imported goods to the United States and around the world will be a significant economic problem, and the results of the next vacation will be critical for some businesses.
According to the trade publication Progressive railwayRail traffic of sea containers in the United States last week fell 8.3 percent, due to the bottleneck at the ports. American railway workers have been negotiating with Class 1 railways for almost two years. In the meantime, their wages have been frozen. Hamburg, Germany-based shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd has announced that its U.S. containers have a residence time of 9.8 days this month, up from 5.9 days since February.
Railway workers in the United States are subject to the Anti-Worker Railway Labor Act (RLA) of 1926, which was expanded to include pilots and flight attendants in the airline industry in 1934. The imposition of the draconian law was a response to previous struggles by railway workers, including the Great Railway Strike of 1877.
The WSWS and the Socialist Equality Party encourage workers to fight to create grassroots committees independent of trade unions to start a fight against attacks on their standard of living, as well as to protect their health and that of their families. These committees will fight to link the struggles of other sections of the working class through the building of the International Alliance of Workers of Grassroots Committees (IWA-RFC).