Dock union leaders mobilise forces in key disputes

12 Jul 2013

Building the power of port unions across the board, campaigning globally and fighting back against union busting tactics. Those were the key commitments from delegates at the ITF dockers’ section conference in Chicago, USA, this week.

A number of key disputes were highlighted by the group, which included dockers’ union representatives from across the world.
One of the most prominent concerns global network terminal operator (GNT) DP World, over its reluctance to negotiate on trade union rights in London Gateway terminal, UK, and ongoing negotiations in the Port of Brisbane, Australia. Delegates resolved to organise a campaign to highlight the issue. Get more information here.

In addition to the resolution passed on DP World, there were also emergency motions regarding support for port workers in Israel where the government has announced the establishment of two new ports, and for workers at the Port of Newcastle, Australia where the employer is attempting to weaken workers’ rights through alterations to their working agreements.

There were further calls for international solidarity over: the grain dispute on the West Coast of America, which has seen hundreds of members from ITF-affiliated union the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) locked out long term at the Ports of Vancouver and Portland; the ongoing dispute on contracting out and union busting at the Port of Auckland, New Zealand; the moves towards liberalisation of port work by the European Union; and the general rise of automation and promotion of precarious work by employers.

In addition, support was pledged to Moroccan trade unionist Said Elhairech, who was imprisoned for charges relating to trade union activities last year. He was freed following a high profile ITF campaign and there is now a drive to get the only charge remaining against him, which regards freedom of association, dropped. Get more on the campaign here.

Addressing delegates, ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “Some of the action we commit to in this room will determine labour standards including through union recognition and legitimate bargaining rights. World trade is growing exponentially and if it is to continue to do so functionally, international dockworker labour rights and decent standards need to be respected and not undermined.”

A new HIV/AIDS resource pack was also launched during the conference aimed at helping port unions to raise awareness, tackle stigma and promote education around HIV/AIDS.

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