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ITF Wins Suit Protecting the Right of Dockers to Perform Lashing Work

The case is a success for one of the union's long-time priorities

Dockers lashing containers
Courtesy ITF

Published Jul 8, 2022 4:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

Dockers represented by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have won a case requiring shipowners to use their services for lashing in the Netherlands.

In 2020, the unions ITF, FNV Havens and Nautilus NL sued three shipping companies over their compliance with a clause in the 2018 International Bargaining Forum agreement on "non-seafarers' work" or "dockers' clause" - a collective-bargaining mandate for dockers to perform cargo lashing. Even after the clause took effect in 2020, these shipping employers were in the habit of requiring their vessel crews to carry out lashing duties rather than hiring in dockers to do the work, according to ITF.

The Rotterdam District Court ruled that companies who employ seafarers must ensure that cargo handling is performed by trained local dock workers, where possible - and not given to seafarers as an additional responsibility. This secures work for dockers, and ITF argues that it also increases safety for seafarers. The court's ruling focused exclusively on seafarers' safety, according to ITF.

The ITF has long argued that seafarers put themselves at risk when they carry out lashing work. It has pointed to the deadly accident aboard the Maersk Patras in 2019, when a second officer went over the side while lashing containers under way; the death of a seafarer while lashing at a terminal in Dublin in 2018; and other casualties that (it argues) could have been prevented if dockers did the work. 

“Lashing can be extremely unsafe for seafarers, who are often untrained in port operations, such as the dangers of moving cranes. Automated terminals and supply chain pressures have further increased these dangers to ships’ crew,” said ITF Dockers' Section vice-chair Niek Stam.