News & Commentary

March 2, 2015

Bloomberg Business reports that South Korean Employment and Labor Minister Lee Ki Kweon said in an interview that large companies should hire more permanent workers and boost pay to subcontractors.  One-third of South Korea’s workforce is employed on temporary contracts, and these contract workers earn an average 56 percent of what regular, full-time employees earn.

On Sunday, German labor union Verdi called for a strike at Deutsche Bank’s retail unit Postbank to enforce job security and higher wages.  Verdi stated that the union expects “an offer that extends job guarantees [until 2020 from the end of last year] and [5%] higher wages.”  The strikes will take place at various locations throughout Germany on Monday.  Verdi’s strike comes at a time when Deutsche Bank is working on a strategy shift that may include selling or “floating” Postbank.

The Los Angeles Times writes that California longshoremen’s unions have retained influence in an era where unions are pushed to the side in favor of globalization and automation.  About half of West Coast union longshoremen make more than $100,000 a year, and over half of foremen and managers earn more than $200,000 each year.  All longshoremen union employees get free healthcare.  This advantageous position, in stark contrast to many other shipping industry unions, is largely due to collective bargaining and contract deals in the 1930s and 1960s.

However, not everything in California’s shipping industry is smooth sailing.  The Wall Street Journal reports that, in light of the massive port worker slowdown that has all but shut down West Coast shipping, managers have had to resort to creative measures to keep cargo from piling up.  Some have tried making time slots for short-haul truck drivers, others have eschewed moving containers around to get specific cargo and instead just giving each truck driver the first cargo off the top of the stack.  Still others have turned to an Uber-like app called Cargomatic to direct short-haul truck drivers.  Even since a tentative contract was reached Feb. 20, experts estimate it could be almost six months before shipping returns to normal, and that these delays could cost retailers billions of dollars this year.

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