Friday, February 3, 2012

Container Shipping Lines and Freight Terminals Targeted by Unions Next Week

Week of Action by International Labour Associations
Shipping News Feature

EAST ASIA – Despite the fact that Japan is home to many of the major container shipping lines and some of the most efficient freight terminals in the world next week will see the port of Mishima-Kawanoe on the country’s smallest and least populous island of Shikoku targeted by international action by seafarers unions as part of an East Asian ‘week of action’.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is working together with other unions to coordinate a week long protest starting on Monday 6th February which will continue until Friday 10th February. The action will be held not only in Japan but also in Korea, Russia and Taiwan and ITF Japan coordinator Fusao Ohori explained:

“The campaign in this region focuses on the safety condition of lifesaving appliances, cargo work equipment; the working terms and conditions of the crew; and applying ITF acceptable agreements for flag of convenience vessels. Del Monte operated ships will be receiving attention, following the company’s refusal to sign agreements. If the joint teams find serious safety issues they will request the ship’s owners rectify them in line with international conventions, or ask port state control to investigate.

“The dockworkers’ union will pay particular attention to the port of Mishima-Kawanoe where there have been reports of low wages, long working hours and injuries among casual workers. There will also be rallies outside the offices of shipping line Kotoku Kaiun, which has refused to sign ITF agreements, as well as in front of the head office of Dowa Line in Tokyo.”

Del Monte has had well publicised labour problems in the past having had to defend itself against Court actions regarding at least one fatal accident and just last August suffering from a boycott by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) after it transferred handling of its imported fruit arriving in Philadelphia to a terminal using non ILA staff.

Meanwhile in Korea, Dowa Lines will once again be one of the companies singled out after allegations of unfair treatment of staff with HK Kim, ITF Korean coordinator saying that vessels will be checked a week before their arrival with warning letters being sent first before a physical check is undertaken. She continued:

“Korean inspectors, supported by local seafarer and dock union members, will make up four strong volunteer teams. Our particular targets for oversight and action include Kotoku and Dowa lines; highlighting safety issues; and education on the dockers’ ports of convenience/global network terminals campaigns.

“We will also be collecting data on Chinese-owned flag of convenience ships, which are using increasing numbers of Burmese and Vietnamese crew – we have heard that these nationalities are being refused shore leave passes on their first call at one port, and we will be investigating this situation and raising it with the government.”

In Taiwan the target will again principally be the conditions where the unions feel owners, operators and employers are using slack regulations to maximise danger to and minimise the cost of staff with the ITF’s representative in the country, Huang Yu-Sheng, commenting:

“At Kaohsiung port we will focus on the condition and provision of lifesaving appliances, safety equipment, and cargo handling equipment, as well as on crew terms and conditions. Campaign activities around the issues of flags of convenience and ports of convenience will be staged in cooperation with the Kaohsiung branch of the National Chinese Seamen’s Union.”