Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hanjin bankruptcy triggers global shipping chaos; Walmart to cut 7,000 jobs; Dilma gone, Brazil's political crisis lingers

1 Hanjin bankruptcy triggers global shipping chaos (San Francisco Chronicle) The bankruptcy of the Hanjin shipping line has thrown ports and retailers around the world into confusion, with giant container ships marooned and merchants worrying whether tons of goods will reach their shelves.
The South Korean giant filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday and stopped accepting new cargo. With its assets being frozen, ships from China to Canada found themselves refused permission to offload or take aboard containers because there were no guarantees that tugboat pilots or stevedores would be paid.

There were reports that some Hanjin ships had been seized in China on behalf of creditors. The National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, wrote to US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero on Thursday, urging them to work with the South Korean government, ports and others to prevent disruption.

Hanjin, the world's seventh-largest container shipper, represents nearly 8 percent of the trans-Pacific trade volume for the US market and the bankruptcy is having "a ripple effect throughout the global supply chain. The confusion might sink some trucking firms that contract with Hanjin to deliver cargo containers carrying everything from electronics to car parts from ports to company loading bays.

Hanjin has been losing money for years. It filed for bankruptcy protection a day after its creditors, led by a state-run bank, refused to prop it up. Other shipping lines were moving to take over some of the Hanjin traffic but at a price. Their vessels already are operating at high capacity because of the season and shippers may wind up paying a premium to squeeze their cargo containers on board.

A weakened economy since the 2008 recession hurt global demand and trade at the same time that steamship lines continued to build more and larger vessels — immense ships that were conceived as cost-effective when freight costs were higher several years ago. But the weaker trade and overcapacity has sent ocean shipping rates plunging in recent years.


2 Walmart to cut 7,000 jobs (BBC) Walmart, the US supermarket chain, plans to cut 7,000 back office and accounting jobs in its US stores. The move comes after a pilot programme in 500 stores this summer that tested a new accounting system.

A Walmart official said the employees affected by the changes would have the option of moving into jobs serving customers if they chose to stay. Walmart, the largest US employer, has been trying to increase the number of staff who deal with customers.

Walmart said employees who stayed with the company would have a choice of jobs, depending on their availability in the stores. This could mean a change in pay or hours for those staff members.
Walmart, which has been the target of trade union protests over low pay for the past few years, raised its minimum pay rate to $10 per hour earlier this year and changed its scheduling system to improve staffing at peak hours.


3 Dilma gone, Brazil’s political crisis lingers (Paulo Pinheiro in The Guardian) The vote that sealed Michel Temer’s installation into power in Brazil took place precisely one week after the end of the Rio Olympic Games and just days before the G20 summit. Everything was carefully planned to make the arbitrary removal of a democratically elected president look like business as usual.

That’s not to say the new leadership in Brazil isn’t worried about whether it appears legitimate. Over the past few months, the alliance forged to oust Dilma Rousseff rejected calling the impeachment process that it was sponsoring a coup d’├ętat.

Rousseff’s fate was decided long before the last vote in the senate, by the collapse of the heterogeneous coalition that sustained her government and that made her the easy prey of an ultra-conservative legislature rattled by uncontrolled corruption investigations.

The impeachment of Rousseff will leave deep scars in political and institutional life. Not only will the country be headed by an artificial leadership arrangement; the new coalition comes to power imposing a radical turn to the right which was defeated in four previous elections.

In Brazil it is clear that the combined economic and political crisis is offering a golden opportunity for an ultra-conservative alliance to regain control of power and demolish part of the legacy of the brief democratic experience. Such a dramatic ending of what was once believed to be one of the very few positive experiences of pragmatic left leadership in the global south will certainly resonate beyond its borders, particularly in Latin America.


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