The main purpose of this study is to provide a comparative analysis on dock labour systems in two European ports, focusing in particular on the container global industry. The research aims at analysing the impact of the market players’ strategies along the maritime-logistics chain on dock labour dynamics in the last years, stressing the role of the institutional, material and structural constraints. By comparing two distinct case studies, the study aims to answer the following research questions: 1. How is the search for economies of scale achieved by market players along the maritime-logistics chain shaping port labour systems, schemes and work organizations in the European ports? 2. To what extent do terminal operating companies respond to the constraints driven by market players, European policies and national regulations, in order to maximize the performance of dock labour in two distinct ports/container terminals? The observation of the entire logistics chain characterizes the peculiar approach of this study. This approach fosters an analysis not only of the dynamic and complex structure of the maritime supply chain, but also of the background tendencies occurring in the overall dimension in which ports are situated, and hence the variety of dock labour systems. The focus on the container handling and the labour that incorporates it underlines the triple nature of the maritime-logistics chain, given the function of the intermodal transport unit. Consequently, this study argues that an “intermodal gaze” is required to grasp the main trends concerning labour in the pivotal link of the maritime-logistics chain. The empirical findings gathered during the fieldworks in the ports of Genoa and Antwerp are presented and discussed. The empirical evidence shows how in the Belgian case shipping companies vertically integrated with global terminal operators, particularly in the container business, demand direct employment for a significant number of their own workers, whereas casual workers are increasingly deployed during periods of peak demand. This setting in principle does not differ from the Italian case. Besides the different business models, dock labour schemes and arrangements, port employers in both cases hire a large part of the dockworkers daily, via “informal agreements”, on an almost continual basis. In addition, the changing dynamics caused by exogenous factors are provoking a higher deployment of casual workers in Genoa, whereas in Antwerp this trend could further increase in the future, with the new possibility given by the ongoing port reform (after the infringement procedure sent by the European Union to the Belgian government, concerning the port labour system). The strategic action of the main players along the maritime-logistics chain is modifying the working mechanisms of both port labour systems, altering the matching of labour supply and demand, opening up new decision-making prospects for transnational terminal operating companies. In this frame, dock labour policies to date have not been carried out, except for de-regulation processes, mainly driven at supranational level and then acquired at national level. In other words, the organizational models of labour in the ports selected seem to be undermined by the processes of globalization, cutthroat competition along the entire logistics chain, and Europeization of the port labour policies. The comparative analysis displays to what extent the de-structuring processes of the organizational patterns are crossing the ports / container terminals analysed, besides the constraints partially common among the cases and partially specific to each of them. Significant dynamics, notwithstanding the institutional path dependencies and the specific global production networks, occur similarly in both the ports observed. The homogeneous pressures, however, engage with the history at national and local level, the institutional structures and practices that dictate the differences among the cases. This in turn reveals a process in which, as this study hypothesizes, such differences are more and more converging towards a commonly variegated trajectory. Beyond the different dock labour scheme and work organization, a similar division – or fragmentation – between permanent and casual workforce has been observed. Moreover, the dock labour systems and schemes compared in this study are differently managed but commonly affected by exogenous and endogenous pressures along the maritime-logistics chain. Furthermore, by looking at the port performance indicators, it has been possible to compare the terminal productivity (linked to the costs) of one cargo handling company operating in both ports, besides the significant differences among the container terminals analyzed (e.g dimension, equipment, etc). Despite the limited data availability, this comparative analysis explores how terminal operating companies behave for maximizing labour productivity in light of the dock labour schemes and regulations in two distinct environments. In short, it turns out that terminal operating companies involved in container handling apply the tariff to their customers starting from the Cash Cost per Box as parameter. The Cash Cost per Box (CCPB) is the indicator that represents how much a container handling company spends only in terms of out-of-pocket costs for each volume unit handled. In this cost structure, labour composes the main value in both cases. Being labour cost the main value, the lower amount of CCPB in the Belgian case with respect to the Italian case is mainly – but not exclusively – due to a lower number of workforce employed to handle one container with respect to the Italian case. The amount of workforce per container handled, determined also by different social relations of production in the ports selected, is the key aspect to set a proper comparison between the ports/terminals, linking the productivity indicators to the cost structure. Furthermore, it has been assessed the difference of the wages in both ports (and the distribution in terms of occupational contexts), which are lower in the Italian case and higher in the Belgian case. These findings show that, in a certain sense, the occupational port labour system in the Italian case remunerates more people by distributing lower wages, whereas in the Belgian case it remunerates less people by distributing higher wages. However, the incidence of labour cost does not changes so much in both contexts, but tends to be similar, being the difference mainly a matter of labour quotas differently distributed (and socially produced). Paradoxically, the organization of port labour in Antwerp replicated in Genoa would require, in theory, as a preliminary condition, the exclusion of a certain amount of workforce currently employed in the port operations. The main difference therefore concerns the greater or lower socialization of costs. In turn, these settings have an impact on terminal productivity, the Gross Crane Rate, due to several factors (i.e. labour force composition, work organization at quayside, terminal layout, endogenous and exogenous factors, terminal facilities, capacity, economies of scale, gang system, motivation and structural constraints, etc.). Following the previous reasoning, the empirical findings show that in Genoa the social equilibrium is given by a lower productivity compared to the Belgian case, acknowledged by the port actors involved in order to keep higher workforce in the port operations. The port labour system in Genoa absorbs more work than in the port of Antwerp, but at the same time, the model is less efficient in terms of performances.

ACROSS THE CHAIN. DOCK LABOUR SYSTEMS IN THE EUROPEAN PORTS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS ON TWO CONTAINER TERMINALS / A. Bottalico ; coordinatore: G. Ballarino ; revisore: T. Vanelslander, C. Ferrari ; supervisore: P. Perulli. - : . Universita' degli Studi di MILANO, 2018 May 29. ((30. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2017. [10.13130/bottalico-andrea_phd2018-05-29].

ACROSS THE CHAIN. DOCK LABOUR SYSTEMS IN THE EUROPEAN PORTS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS ON TWO CONTAINER TERMINALS

A. Bottalico
2018

Abstract

The main purpose of this study is to provide a comparative analysis on dock labour systems in two European ports, focusing in particular on the container global industry. The research aims at analysing the impact of the market players’ strategies along the maritime-logistics chain on dock labour dynamics in the last years, stressing the role of the institutional, material and structural constraints. By comparing two distinct case studies, the study aims to answer the following research questions: 1. How is the search for economies of scale achieved by market players along the maritime-logistics chain shaping port labour systems, schemes and work organizations in the European ports? 2. To what extent do terminal operating companies respond to the constraints driven by market players, European policies and national regulations, in order to maximize the performance of dock labour in two distinct ports/container terminals? The observation of the entire logistics chain characterizes the peculiar approach of this study. This approach fosters an analysis not only of the dynamic and complex structure of the maritime supply chain, but also of the background tendencies occurring in the overall dimension in which ports are situated, and hence the variety of dock labour systems. The focus on the container handling and the labour that incorporates it underlines the triple nature of the maritime-logistics chain, given the function of the intermodal transport unit. Consequently, this study argues that an “intermodal gaze” is required to grasp the main trends concerning labour in the pivotal link of the maritime-logistics chain. The empirical findings gathered during the fieldworks in the ports of Genoa and Antwerp are presented and discussed. The empirical evidence shows how in the Belgian case shipping companies vertically integrated with global terminal operators, particularly in the container business, demand direct employment for a significant number of their own workers, whereas casual workers are increasingly deployed during periods of peak demand. This setting in principle does not differ from the Italian case. Besides the different business models, dock labour schemes and arrangements, port employers in both cases hire a large part of the dockworkers daily, via “informal agreements”, on an almost continual basis. In addition, the changing dynamics caused by exogenous factors are provoking a higher deployment of casual workers in Genoa, whereas in Antwerp this trend could further increase in the future, with the new possibility given by the ongoing port reform (after the infringement procedure sent by the European Union to the Belgian government, concerning the port labour system). The strategic action of the main players along the maritime-logistics chain is modifying the working mechanisms of both port labour systems, altering the matching of labour supply and demand, opening up new decision-making prospects for transnational terminal operating companies. In this frame, dock labour policies to date have not been carried out, except for de-regulation processes, mainly driven at supranational level and then acquired at national level. In other words, the organizational models of labour in the ports selected seem to be undermined by the processes of globalization, cutthroat competition along the entire logistics chain, and Europeization of the port labour policies. The comparative analysis displays to what extent the de-structuring processes of the organizational patterns are crossing the ports / container terminals analysed, besides the constraints partially common among the cases and partially specific to each of them. Significant dynamics, notwithstanding the institutional path dependencies and the specific global production networks, occur similarly in both the ports observed. The homogeneous pressures, however, engage with the history at national and local level, the institutional structures and practices that dictate the differences among the cases. This in turn reveals a process in which, as this study hypothesizes, such differences are more and more converging towards a commonly variegated trajectory. Beyond the different dock labour scheme and work organization, a similar division – or fragmentation – between permanent and casual workforce has been observed. Moreover, the dock labour systems and schemes compared in this study are differently managed but commonly affected by exogenous and endogenous pressures along the maritime-logistics chain. Furthermore, by looking at the port performance indicators, it has been possible to compare the terminal productivity (linked to the costs) of one cargo handling company operating in both ports, besides the significant differences among the container terminals analyzed (e.g dimension, equipment, etc). Despite the limited data availability, this comparative analysis explores how terminal operating companies behave for maximizing labour productivity in light of the dock labour schemes and regulations in two distinct environments. In short, it turns out that terminal operating companies involved in container handling apply the tariff to their customers starting from the Cash Cost per Box as parameter. The Cash Cost per Box (CCPB) is the indicator that represents how much a container handling company spends only in terms of out-of-pocket costs for each volume unit handled. In this cost structure, labour composes the main value in both cases. Being labour cost the main value, the lower amount of CCPB in the Belgian case with respect to the Italian case is mainly – but not exclusively – due to a lower number of workforce employed to handle one container with respect to the Italian case. The amount of workforce per container handled, determined also by different social relations of production in the ports selected, is the key aspect to set a proper comparison between the ports/terminals, linking the productivity indicators to the cost structure. Furthermore, it has been assessed the difference of the wages in both ports (and the distribution in terms of occupational contexts), which are lower in the Italian case and higher in the Belgian case. These findings show that, in a certain sense, the occupational port labour system in the Italian case remunerates more people by distributing lower wages, whereas in the Belgian case it remunerates less people by distributing higher wages. However, the incidence of labour cost does not changes so much in both contexts, but tends to be similar, being the difference mainly a matter of labour quotas differently distributed (and socially produced). Paradoxically, the organization of port labour in Antwerp replicated in Genoa would require, in theory, as a preliminary condition, the exclusion of a certain amount of workforce currently employed in the port operations. The main difference therefore concerns the greater or lower socialization of costs. In turn, these settings have an impact on terminal productivity, the Gross Crane Rate, due to several factors (i.e. labour force composition, work organization at quayside, terminal layout, endogenous and exogenous factors, terminal facilities, capacity, economies of scale, gang system, motivation and structural constraints, etc.). Following the previous reasoning, the empirical findings show that in Genoa the social equilibrium is given by a lower productivity compared to the Belgian case, acknowledged by the port actors involved in order to keep higher workforce in the port operations. The port labour system in Genoa absorbs more work than in the port of Antwerp, but at the same time, the model is less efficient in terms of performances.
PERULLI, PAOLO
BALLARINO, GABRIELE
Port labour systems; Maritime-Logistics Chain; Container Industry; Dock Labour Schemes
Settore SPS/09 - Sociologia dei Processi economici e del Lavoro
Settore SPS/07 - Sociologia Generale
Settore IUS/07 - Diritto del Lavoro
Settore SECS-P/07 - Economia Aziendale
Settore SECS-P/10 - Organizzazione Aziendale
Settore SECS-S/04 - Demografia
Settore M-PSI/06 - Psicologia del Lavoro e delle Organizzazioni
ACROSS THE CHAIN. DOCK LABOUR SYSTEMS IN THE EUROPEAN PORTS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS ON TWO CONTAINER TERMINALS / A. Bottalico ; coordinatore: G. Ballarino ; revisore: T. Vanelslander, C. Ferrari ; supervisore: P. Perulli. - : . Universita' degli Studi di MILANO, 2018 May 29. ((30. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2017. [10.13130/bottalico-andrea_phd2018-05-29].
Doctoral Thesis
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