DEATH OF 50 DOCK WORKERS: …Global Dockers’ Group Set for Aggressive Campaign on Improved Port Safety

Piriye Kiyaramo

Following reported cases of the death of more than 50 dockers from preventable incidents at ports due to poor port safety measures, the Occupational Safety and Health Section of the Dockers’ Working Group of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is set commence an aggressive action plan to improve the safety and health of the world’s port workers.

At the inaugural meeting of the working group in Hong Kong on Monday, members from Asia, India, Australia, Europe, the Arab World, Africa and the Americas met to discuss and implement strategies to fight back against the mounting death and injury toll across waterfront worldwide.

Over the past calendar year more than 50 dockers have died in preventable incidents.

During a review of global incidents, the meeting noted the serious accident recorded recently at the Jakarta International Container Terminal (JICT) where dangerous chemicals dropped from a Rubber Tired Gantry.

Deputy President of Serikat Pekerja Jakarta International Container Terminal (SPJICT), Suryansyah Bahar, addressed Hutchison’s atrocious recent record of injuries and deaths in their ports.

He said, “We are appalled yet again by Hutchison’s callous disregard for life and limb, and stand united in our utter condemnation and preparedness to fight so that every worker goes home safely.

“Hutchison is the biggest stevedore in the world and has an obvious responsibility to its global workforce to meet occupational health and safety requirements.”

A union investigation found equipment failure and inexperienced operators as the main reasons, and adds yet again to Hutchison’s mounting incidence record stemming from outsourcing and contracting out work to inexperienced operators.

“These are not minor incidents, workers are losing their lives and their families and communities bear the scar from Hutchison’s mismanagement for their lifetimes,” said ITF President and Dockers’ section chair, Paddy Crumlin.

At the JICT, between 2016 and 2018 five workers died, and there have been more than 10 incidents (including near misses) per month in 2018, which means more than one hundred incidents to date this year alone. This is a direct result of the sacking of a hundred experienced and unionised workers, who they replaced with inexperienced workers.

“They chose to bust the union over safety and performance at the terminal, and this has led to injury and death,” said Crumlin.

In Sydney last month, under the banner ‘Safety through Solidarity’ unions including SPJICT in Indonesia, South Asia Port Terminal (SAPT) Democratic Worker’s Union in Pakistan and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), came together to protect dockers from the abysmally low safety standards at Hutchison Ports forming the Asia Pacific Regional Safety Committee.

“Dockers from across Hutchison’s global operations are united to combat the company’s poor safety record. This is also the goal of the ITF Dockers Occupational Safety and Health Working Group, to support ITF affiliates in building a safety culture and assisting them in working with terminal operators who continue to press workers into dangerous working conditions,” said Crumlin.