Friday, January 10, 2020

Transport Unions Up in Arms Over Shipping Companies Refusal to Implement Agreed Terms

Legal Whipping Scheduled as Container Lashing Row Intensifies
Shipping News Feature

NETHERLANDS – EUROPE – CANADA – A row is brewing over the so called 'Dockers' Clause', an amendment to the internationally agreed contracts between unions and maritime employers which set out all aspects of work to be undertaken with regard to the loading and crewing of ships.

The amended clause (Article 4, Non-Seafarers Work) which applies to all International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) approved agreements, was signed in February 2018 by workers’ and employers’ representatives from the ITF and the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) and took effect worldwide in the same month, with two exceptions: Europe and Canada.

Europe and Canada were given almost two years additional time to prepare for the new rules, until 1 January 2020, before the agreement entered into force at the explicit request of employers. Despite this arrangement, the ITF alleges that certain companies have refused to uphold the Dockers’ Clause. Instead of contracting lashing companies, they waited until the clause entered into effect and now claim that enforcement is impossible.

Lashing is at the very heart of this argument, the securing of containers aboard ship is an absolutely vital safety link in the supply chain. For some time arguments have raged from both sides with accusations from the dock workers that only they are properly trained in the task, whilst some vessel operators say that is in fact not the case and the ships crews should take responsibility.

The unions are unequivocal in their condemnation of the current situation and the ITF has formed an international team of legal advisors to make sure that companies will indeed comply. The ITF states that delaying tactics on implementation of the agreement will not be accepted and the necessary legal measures are being prepared to ensure the deal is respected. Niek Stam, ITF Dockers’ Section second vice chair, commented:

“The Dockers’ Clause secures safe working conditions for seafarers and for dockers. The clause was agreed that lashing work should be carried out by trained dockers! Trade unions are supporting the new Dockers’ Clause and are ready and willing to defend it. A deal is a deal, and a signature is legally binding. The agreement was negotiated and signed by both sides, and it is time for everyone to comply. The trade unions of Europe and Canada represented by ITF will keep their end of the promises, companies must keep their side of the bargain as well.”

Dockers unions, shop stewards and legal advisors from ten countries gathered in Rotterdam this week and pledged to take action to ensure that the clause is implemented around the globe. Terje Samuelsen, European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) Dockers’ section chair commented:

“The Dockers’ Clause was agreed for the health and safety of seafarers and dockers. Delaying its implementation jeopardises safe working conditions and it constitutes a breach of the agreement. The Dockers’ Clause, which came into effect on 1 January, is important in two ways, for dockers to do the job safely and to ensure seafarers are no longer obligated to do a job that according to their CBA they’re not supposed to be doing. I am surprised that ship owners, who knew this was coming for more than two years still don’t respect it.”

Lashing (and indeed de-lashing)boxes might seem a simple task to the uninitiated, but has in fact been a factor in many accidents, all too often fatal, and anyone doubting the complexity of the operation should take a look at this 120 page guide from the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).