Canal lock workers' strike disrupts German inland shipping

HAMBURG Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:13am EDT

HAMBURG Aug 22 (Reuters) - Cargo shipping on various rivers and canals in Germany was again disrupted on Thursday, German inland navigation agency WSA said, as workers operating locks resumed strikes in protest over planned job cuts.

The Ver.di trade union has called repeated short strikes since July in protest against government plans to restructure the WSA with heavy job losses.

A Ver.di spokesman said strikes of differing periods spread around several German regions would take place up to 0400 GMT on Saturday. The longest strikes would be in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which includes the industrial Ruhr region.

"There will then be a pause but it is not known for how long," the spokesman said.

Strikes caused disruption on Thursday to shipping on rivers and canals including the Main, Saar, Dortmund-Ems, Rhine-Herne and Weser-Datteln canal, the WSA said.

Ver.di is calling for the German government to give wage and other guarantees to WSA employees. The union fears 3,000 of the agency's 12,000 jobs could be cut under the planned restructuring.

Traders said the impact of the dispute was growing.

"Strikes are taking place for several hours at a time, for a day or half day, and queues of ships are building up," one grain trader said. "Then the locks are opened and the jam clears, but overall the strike is causing delays rather than serious disruption."

A German-based oil distillates broker said the strike "has impacted a lot of ships."

Some 30 ships or more are stuck near Heidelberg/Mannheim, the broker said. (Reporting by Michael Hogan and Claire Milhench; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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