Tuesday, November 17, 2009

International Trade Union Threatens Moller-Maersk Shipping over Beating of Indian Workers

Subcontractor “Must Go”
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has threatened to take action against Danish shipping giant Moller-Maersk due to allegations that one of its Indian subcontracting company’s has been threatening and attacking drivers at the port of Mumbai.

According to the Union, which commissioned a report to investigate the accusations, men working for SC Thakur, a contractor for Maersk subsidiary Gateway Terminals India, beat three members of the TDWU (Transport and Dock Workers’ Union) on the 23rd of October this year - one of the assaults being carried out in front of the man’s wife and children.

The ITF claims this is the third such attack on union members, which started in April 2007 when four drivers were abducted and beaten so badly they had to be hospitalised. When other union members went on strike in support of the hospitalised colleagues they were sacked. Following dialogue between Maersk and the ITF the workers were reinstated.

Though negotiations between Maersk and the ITF have been ongoing since this first incident, with Maersk stating unequivocally that they recognise that the drivers have the right to join an independent union and that the contractors should allow them union representation, this latest attack is the last straw for the ITF.

The ITF’s assistant general secretary Stuart Howard said: “This latest bloody attack is doubly shocking given the efforts made since the first thuggish assaults two years ago. Since then we have sought to end this appalling situation with Maersk’s cooperation. The company has taken some measures to aid these workers and hinder the reported criminal behaviour of this contractor, but these clearly still fall short of what the workers on the ground want and need.

“The ITF has credible evidence that the contractor abducted and assaulted workers for wanting to join the TDWU. Until they are allowed to do so all four GTI contractors – as is their right –  feel unprotected. They have decided that the union is their best defence. Maersk has to deliver on that right. The first, unavoidable step they have to take is to show their disgust at what has been done by showing Thakur the door.”

He concluded: “This kind of violence is unacceptable. This company is a repeat offender. We will not wait for a fourth incident to happen. The company has to go, and go now.”

Speaking for Maersk on the allegations Pieter Schaffels, VP Communications, APM Terminals, said: "Our company has strict standards on the safety and the security of our employees, including those who are classified as contracted workers, working for vendors. We are investigating this incident and if accurate, we will take immediate action with Thakur and sever ties."

(pic: One of the victims of a beating shows the shirt he was wearing at the time)