Saturday, October 6, 2012

Road Haulage, Cargo Ships and Freight Handling Ports Targeted Next Week

Unions Will Check Conditions on Flag of Convenience Vessels
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – BELGIUM – MALDIVES - WORLDWIDE - Next week it will be ports in India which will receive visits from a group of trade union officials for the next phase of activity spearheaded by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). Running from Monday the 8th October until Friday the first South Asia ‘maritime week of action’ will target freight and passenger vessels which are not up to standard and cargo handling facilities which are unsafe or abusing workers rights whilst road haulage will be the focus of a demonstration in Brussels.

Mumbai, JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust), Goa, New Mangalore, Visakhapatnam and Tuticorin will all receive visits from dock workers and seafaring union representatives whilst the unions of New Mangalore, JNPT and Goa to send a strong message to shipping companies that even non-inspectorate ports in India are active and always fighting for seafarers’ rights. For the first time unions at private port terminals (Tuticorin and JNPT) will take part in the action week.

As well as defending seafarers’ rights unions will again also highlight issues affecting dockers, such as deregulation, privatisation, casualisation, health and safety and precarious work. They will also be explaining the objectives of the ITF’s ports of convenience campaign. Mahendra Sharma, ITF Asia Pacific regional secretary, commented:

“South Asian maritime unions are fed up having to deal week-in week-out with the exploitation of seafarers on flags of convenience vessels and substandard tonnage, the abandonment by owners of ships and seafarers and the failure of some owners to take responsibility to ensure safe internationally compliant operations. This week of action will focus on eliminating substandard ships from South Asian ports and high seas to ensure ITF acceptable wages and decent working and living conditions on board.”

The action is justified simply because over recent years ITF affiliated dockers’ and seafarers’ unions in India have tracked down many flag of convenience ships visiting their ports, signed agreements, secured back wages for hundreds of seafarers and helped win court claims for crews cheated and/or abandoned by ship owners and to ensure appropriate action is being taken further South Asian week of action will take place in December.

In other transport union news the ITF and its member unions worldwide are holding a road action week with a plethora of events in around fifty countries to fight for safe, secure work. It runs from 7th to 13 October and will include an international demonstration on the 9th October in Belgium. Road transport workers in both the passenger and freight sectors – who will be joined by colleagues from rail and other transport unions – will be campaigning for safe and decent work and against the de-regulation, privatisation and liberalisation that unions feel have drastically changed the road and railway industries over past decades.

Among the countries in which unions are organising events are Angola, Argentina, Barbados, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, India, France, Germany, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Turkey, USA, and Zimbabwe. Events planned include rallies, border actions, information distribution, leafleting, approaches to governments and police, education activities, conferences and marches.

This will be the fifteenth year for the ITF international road transport action week campaign in activities which Mac Urata, ITF inland transport sections secretary, says have involved over one million union members and boosted memberships whilst gaining better recognition from employers and governments. The action will involve various activities including the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) demonstration in the Place du Luxembourg, by the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday campaigning for ‘respect for professional drivers’.

Meanwhile the Maldives provides an idyllic setting for a dock workers dispute which is growing ever uglier. The Maldives ports workers Union (MPWU) claims the port managers, Maldives Ports Limited (MPL), has been taking actions against its employees which run contrary to the Constitution, and Employment Act, even though the union is recognized by the government, international community and the employees.

Management stand accused by the union, which is again receiving support from the ITF along with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and others, of threats and acts of force to forbid union membership whilst dismissing port workers leaders who have tried to enforce the constitutional rights of employees.The union has now threatened non specific action to bring matters to a head.

Photo: Police stand watching protesting maldives dock workers