Recent murder in le Havre highlights persistent risks for port workers

2 Jul 2020


A few weeks ago, more than two thousand people gathered in le Havre in tribute to the dockworker and prominent union member who was murdered at the Port of le Havre.

The incident exposed the unacceptable reality that port workers are not safe from threats and intimidation by drug cartels and their associates. In the case of the Port of le Havre, unions have been working on improving the situation for years.

Drug trafficking, often associated with other forms of crime, such as money laundering or corruption, is becoming a growing issue, with the Port of le Havre often described as the main drugs gateway into France. The pressure on  European ports in this context has further intensified lately because of limitations on travel, lack of commercial flights, and closed external borders of the EU.

The dockers in the Port of le Havre are no strangers to kidnappings. It has been reported that in the last three years, 20 workers have been kidnapped and sometimes beaten before being released. This time, however, is the first time that the story turned out to be fatal for the docker.

The ETF and the ITF are committed to building a safer working environment for dockers and all port workers; one in which they receive the dignity and respect their important and dangerous frontline work deserves.

Organized gangs and drug trafficking organizations are ruining individual lives and damaging communities.  We stand committed to defend and protect the core values of freedom and democracy, ensuring human and trade union rights are protected. Faced with widespread and ever more sophisticated criminal networks affecting multiple sectors and endangering the lives of workers, trade unions continue to play an important role as vehicles of democracy and advocates of justice. We urge governments to set up new strategies and enforce existing ones to tackle drug trafficking and protect exposed port workers and their families. Strong cooperation is needed between law enforcement agencies and social partners in the port sector in Europe and worldwide.