Protest against container terminal group over sacked dockers

Representatives from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and its affiliate the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) held protests at the African Ports Evolution conference in Durban on October 17th and 18th. The union groups were demonstrating against International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) and the Madagascan Government, demanding the reinstatement of 43 dock workers sacked at the Port of Toamasina earlier this year.

The ITF and its associates say that the failure to reinstate the “Malagasy 43”, despite court orders recognizing the union’s right to organise at the port, indicated that there was still more work to do to ensure respect for the rule of law and for the rights of workers and all citizens in that country. The sacked workers were employed by labour-hire company SMMC, but were dismissed after undertaking what was described by the union as perfectly legal union-related activity

The port terminal managers have been accused of sidestepping the question of union recognition by employing third-party companies to manage staff, even though those staff work full-time at the terminal facilities.

The protest in Durban was part of global week of action by ITF affiliates within ICTSI’s global terminals and shipping routes, in a renewed international push against what the ITF has asserted is an emerging pattern of labour violations across ICTSI’s global network.

ICTSI’s Senior Vice President, Christian Gonzalez said that ICTSI remained “committed to the safety and welfare of our equipment operators”.

However, ITF President Paddy Crumlin said that “in outsourcing work to labour-hire companies, ICTSI believes it can avoid proper scrutiny and criticism for the wages and conditions of casual workers at its terminals. But everyone knows that ICTSI carries the ultimate responsibility for the working conditions of all workers at its terminals. These workers in Madagascar deserve the right to be recognised as the bona fide workforce by ICTSI. All workers employed in stevedoring activities need to be treated as direct employees.”

He added that “the ITF stands in solidarity with COSATU and SATAWU with a clear message for the Madagascan government – the Malagasy 43 must go back to work. The Madagascan Government can solve this problem right now by showing real leadership and stopping this exploitation. The government should enforce its own labour laws and abide by international labour conventions. They must reinstate the Malagasy 43 immediately and allow (local union) SYGMMA to organize for all workers at the Port of Toamasina.”