Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sacking of Officials by Container Freight Terminal Operator Incenses International Unions

Dismissal of Dockers Generates Severe Criticism
Shipping News Feature
PAKISTAN – This week the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has unreservedly condemned the recent sackings of eight union leaders by Hutchison Ports Pakistan operation after they were dismissed allegedly for trying to introduce an ITF approved union to the Karachi freight container handling facilities operated by its subsidiary at South Asia Pakistan Terminals (SAPT).

The affair has incensed the ITF and they are referring to the sacked workers as the ‘Karachi 8’. Despite our requests SAPT has failed to respond to our enquiries as to their standpoint on the matter. The ITF however says the dismissal of the eight follows previous attempts by Hutchison Ports Pakistan to challenge to the legitimacy of SAPT Democratic Workers' Union (SAPTDWU) after the union’s official certification as the Certified Bargaining Agent for SAPT on 30th April 2018.

The ITF has written to Hutchison Ports Pakistan requesting the reinstatement of the sacked workers as a matter of urgency, and for the company to restore respect for trade union rights at the terminal. This follows thousands of trade unionists petitioning for their immediate reinstatement. The ITF says Hutchison ‘secretly registered’ another union in Islamabad and filed ‘trumped up’ charges of sabotage against union leaders which resulted in the incarceration of two of the leaders for 9 days.

Now it claims that, in violation of a court order, the company has illegally sacked SAPTDWU’s eight union officials. ITF president and Dockers’ Section chair Paddy Crumlin denounced the treatment and targeting of the leaders of the federation’s newest dockers union in no uncertain terms, saying:

“The sacking of democratically elected union representatives will not be tolerated by Hutchison workers or dock workers globally. The ITF condemns this attack against the leaders and membership of SAPT Democratic Workers' Union in the strongest terms. We have been following Hutchison’s tactics in Pakistan for some time, and this is just the latest attempt to undermine their workers’ fundamental rights to representation and to collectively bargain.

“The international trade union movement’s eyes are open to Hutchison’s union-busting agenda. In the past year we’ve seen Hutchison challenge to the legitimacy of SAPTDWU in the court, and fail, register another union in Islamabad, sack leaders for tabling collective demands, and file trumped up charges of sabotage against union leaders that resulted in the incarceration of two leaders for nine days in the absence of any evidence submitted to court.

“If Hutchison Ports Pakistan wish to have a constructive relationship with their global workforce, and maritime unions internationally, they must immediately reinstate the Karachi 8 and end their shameful union-busting tactics at SAPT in Karachi.

“Far from breaking the strength of the workforce in Karachi, this attack has emboldened them, every docker and every unionist around the world to support the campaign to reinstate the Karachi 8. The international campaign in support of the Karachi 8 is gathering momentum. Again, we urge Hutchison to reinstate the Karachi 8 and allow genuine freedom of association for these officials to operate in the interests of their members.”