Friday, April 21, 2017

Port Labour Dispute Takes a New Turn as Unions Target Export Shippers

Brands Have Improved Working Conditions but Stand Accused over Supply Chain Methods
Shipping News Feature
MADAGASCAR – In a fairly lengthy (for us) article in February we highlighted the dispute at the Port of Toamasina (Tamatave) and the plight of the those workers dismissed by the management, allegedly for joining a union the Syndicat General Maritime de Madagascar (SYGMMA), and in an action which contravenes the country's labour laws. Now the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) which has been running a campaign on behalf of the dockers, has ramped up the pressure by targeting an international brand which manufactures in the country and exports via the port.

The union is launching a major report, ‘Levi’s: End the Double Standard in your Supply Chain’ highlighting Levi Strauss’, albeit indirect, involvement in the exploitation of Madagascan dockworkers. The ITF says actions at Levi’s stores are being scheduled to occur around the globe to highlight the issue starting in Sydney. Paddy Crumlin, ITF President said the union is seeking the intervention of the global clothing company in a widening dispute with the Madagascan Government and port operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI). He commented:

“Levi’s are industry leaders in developing policies to improve workers’ rights in their factories but the same rights need to be extended to their global supply chains. Levi’s policies have seen improvements in working conditions for the garment workers but transport workers that deliver Levi’s jeans and other apparel to stores across the globe are being exploited and working in dangerous conditions.

“Levi's exports through the Port of Toamasina (Tamatave), where casual dock workers often work without safety equipment, and struggle to make ends meet on their wages. 43 were fired when they came together to fight for better working conditions. The Government of Madagascar faces an International Labour Organisation (ILO) complaint over the dispute.”

It is perhaps a little unfair to target one major manufacturer, several major international brands ship their produce through the ICTSI operated Port of Toamasina which is the main gateway for $360 million worth of textile products exported to Europe, $100 million to South Africa, and $60 million to the USA.

Photo: Courtesy of TrekEarth. A certain irony as Dockers is in fact a leading Levi Strauss brand.