After months of interruption due to COVID-19 restrictions and other factors, representatives of the employers’ and employees’ organizations resumed their exchanges in the framework of the Sectoral Social Dialogue for Ports by holding the first meeting of the year on February 28th, 2023, at the Borshette center in Brussels.
All crises that have occurred since 2020 (COVID-19, war in Ukraine, blockade of the Suez Canal, lockdowns in China etc…) have shown the importance of the transport and logistics sector and underlined the crucial role of professionals and workers in adapting and showing resilience to find solutions.
Social Dialogue is not a cosmetic exercise. It is more than a formal listening exercise between social partners. It is an opportunity to take the pulse of the sector and to discuss topics that are of direct interest and impact such as the real causes of disruption in the maritime logistics chain. Hence the importance to have a meaningful dialogue with the EU Commission which is not a social partner per se but which, thanks to its power of legislative initiative, remains an important counterpart for the social partners.
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Discussing the impact of ETS on the competitiveness of EU ports may look far from socially related topics but it is not. If EU ports loose cargo as a consequence of the entry into force of ETS, this will be irreversible and will have an impact on employment.
It was very useful and interesting to have a good exchange of views with DG Climate during the Social Dialogue meeting and to reiterate the concerns of port stakeholders.
It will be crucial for the EU Commission to use indicators that allow the early detection of evasive port calls and reconfigurations of shipping routes before they actually become irreversibly entrenched.
Port stakeholders such as port authorities, terminal operators and trade unions should be involved in the monitoring of the impact of EU ETS Maritime.
The EU Commission should monitor cargo diversion via all relevant non-EU ports, not only those ports where the total share of container transhipment traffic exceeds 65%. If cargo diversion also takes place via ports or terminals outside the EU that handle less than 65% of container traffic, this threshold should be lowered or abandoned immediately.
The review of the Consortia BER was also worth a discussion in the framework of the Social Dialogue for ports because a prolongation of this piece of legislation without any modification will aggravate the unbalanced bargaining power between port stakeholders and shipping lines and will ultimately be detrimental to port stakeholders and other parties of the chain.
In this respect, it was reassuring to hear during the Social Dialogue meeting that DG Comp is carefully considering the input and data provided by different stakeholders and that it has decided to postpone the publication of the evaluation report (staff working document) on the CBER to Summer 2023 instead of first quarter 2023.
FEPORT believes in a meaningful Social Dialogue that is anchored into the reality of the EU port sector. At this very moment where the EU Commission has presented its Social Dialogue initiative and announced its ambition to launch a vast program of reskilling and upskilling, it is important to ensure consistency between policies and proper reviews of existing pieces of legislation. This is probably the most efficient way to guarantee a real level playing field and to safeguard employment.