French unions staged a national 24-hour tug strike in October, to raise safety concerns over a towing company's proposal to reduce the number of officers on its tugs from four to three.
The CGT, CFDT and CFE-CGC unions acted after the towing company in the Mediterranean port of Sète, approached the maritime administration in September, requesting the green light to reduce onboard tug manpower on each watch.
The action on 22 October 2019 resulted in major stoppages in Marseilles, Le Havre and Calais and other French ports, with a strong message to management but little effect on traffic, as the unions had given appropriate warning of the stoppages.
Compagnie de Remorquage Maritime de Sète, part of the TSM Group, also operates at Rouen, Bordeaux and Dieppe. Gaël Biger, spokesman for the CGT union in Sète, said that the manpower reduction request was causing 'great concern' among tug employees.
Mr Biger said they oppose the request for safety reasons: 'Tugs are becoming increasingly powerful and four officers on board is a minimum, especially in cases of fire and safety when we take extra manpower on board as, for example, firefighters.'
While the French maritime administration has two months to reply to the Sète company's request, the unions are considering further action.