Global Protests Target Madagascan Government

dock workers

By MarEx 2017-02-28 11:12:56

The Government of Madagascar is the target of a global campaign launched to defend dockworkers at the ICTSI operated Port of Toamasina in Madagascar. The campaign by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) will see protests outside of Madagascan embassies across three continents.

Steve Cotton, ITF General Secretary said this was the first action in an ongoing campaign to get 43 dock workers reinstated after they were sacked for being members of a union.

“These workers were sacked for fighting for better wages and against dangerous conditions. After joining their union, they faced intimidation and retaliation from management – who gave them two options: leave the union or lose their jobs.

“The workers refused and were sacked, contravening their rights to freedom of association. Most are struggling to survive. The Court of Madagascar recognized that SYGMMA had the right to organize at the Port of Toamasina. To date, none of the 43 workers who were dismissed for union activity have been reinstated,” Mr. Cotton said.

Paddy Crumlin, ITF President said the Government of Madagascar is on notice that the global union movement are standing with the Toamasina port workers.

“We will not rest until these workers get justice. These actions today will send a clear message – these workers must be allowed go back to work,” Mr. Crumlin said.

The ITF protests are happening outside of the Madagascan embassies in Sydney, Washington, Brussels, Rotterdam, Paris, Istanbul and Helsinki. The campaign is calling on people to email the Government of Madagascar to show their support for the 43 workers. For more information on the campaign go to https://www.justicefordockworkers.org/.

The ICTSI operated Port of Toamasina is the main gateway for $360 million worth of textile products exported to Europe, $100 million to South Africa, and $60 million to the USA. Major international brands source clothing in Madagascar – including Levi Strauss.

About ITF

ITF is the international union federation representing around 700 transport unions, and more than 4.5 million transport workers from 150 countries.

Media Background

ITF is working with the local union (SYGMMA) at the Toamasina port to improve conditions for workers.

The workers on the Toamasina port work for MICTSL (subsidiary of Philippine container terminal operator ICTSI) and SMMC (MDG government owned company who provides casual labor to MICTSL).

Workers joined SYGMMA to fight for better wages and conditions at the Port of Toamasina. They quickly faced intimidation and retaliation from management – who gave them to option to leave the union or lose their jobs. The workers did not give in, and 43 workers were unfairly dismissed.

None of the 43 workers who were dismissed for union activity have been reinstated. Most have struggled to find regular work, and subsist from traditional fishing, driving rickshaws, helping their wives sell vegetables at the markets, and intermittent work as gardeners and cleaners. Despite back-breaking labor and long hours, they often can’t afford to eat.

The unfair dismissal of these workers has significantly impacted their families, particularly on their wives who have had to intensify their own work to make up for their husband’s lost income. The wife of one of the dockers states: I work every day. Every single day. Each night, when I sleep, I feel very tired. I ache all over my body. […] Some days, we don’t have anything to eat. No lunch, no dinner. We don’t have enough money, even though I wash clothes every day.

The maximum a casual worker for SMMC can earn per day is USD $9.24 on piece rate – but this is dependent on whether there are any containers on that day. Even though they have a set roster, casual workers are only paid when there are containers to unload. They cannot take other work due to the roster – but they may not get any money for that shift. On average, a casual worker will take home USD $40/month. This works out to only USD $1.33.

Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2009, there was a coup in the country. This resulted in the US putting sanctions on the country that weren’t lifted until 2014.

The maximum a casual worker for SMMC can earn per day is USD $9.24 on piece rate – but this is dependent on whether there are any containers on that day. Even though they have a set roster, casual workers are only paid when there are containers to unload. They cannot take other work due to the roster – but they may not get any money for that shift. On average, a casual worker will take home USD $40/month. This works out to only USD $1.33.

Some workers have been working for over 11 years on a casual piece rate. The union took the company to court arguing that under article 9 of the Madagascan labor law, these workers should be made permanent. The union won the case, but the workers still haven’t been made permanent.

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