Union representatives travelled from afar to hand in complaints at Maersk’s Copenhagen headquarters yesterday about treatment of workers by one of the largest shipping companies in the world. Maersk Group, which recently recorded a profit of $29 billion, said that it was unable to organise an in-person meeting because of an internal restructuring process.
According to a statement from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), a federation of unions representing transport workers, Maersk was breaking its own values. The employees affected include seafarers, dockers, tug and towage workers, and logistics workers, according to the ITF.
Grievances include Maersk’s treatment of towage personnel by subsidiary Svitzer Australia whereby the company had attempted to cut pay rates by 47%; moves by Svitzer to engage subcontractors in Argentina, thereby undermining wages and conditions; the death at work of nine Maersk and contractor personnel during 2022; and a refusal to engage in collective bargaining with unions.
A.P. Møller-Maersk CEO Vincent Clerc addressed the grievances during the AGM broadcast. Clerc characterised Svitzer’s entry into the Argentine market as generating healthy competition, said Svitzer’s four-year good faith negotiations in Australia were ongoing, and that he disagreed with the statement that Maersk was unwilling to enter negotiations with unions in the Netherlands.
Jacqueline Smith, the ITF’s Maritime Co-ordinator, said that Maersk was breaking its own value by refusing to bargain collectively with unions and failing to uphold “this important human and labour right”.
“We remain concerned that Maersk allows country managers like those running Svitzer Australia and Svitzer Argentina to make a mockery of Maersk’s values,” she said. “You can’t have one set of values when you’re marketing a brand as progressive on labour and climate change in Europe, and another set of values for how you really treat your workers on the other side of the world.”
ITF Maersk Network Co-ordinator and maritime lead campaigner, Kulsoom Jafri, asked the question: “How is it that Svitzer, Maersk’s tug and towage division, can negotiate a fair pay rise of more than 10% with its workers in the United Kingdom; yet, in Australia, they are trying to tear up the long-held collective agreement of its workforce altogether?
“With the future of the shipping sector uncertain; now more than ever,” Jahri continued, “Maersk needs to be listening to the voice of labour when we raise concerns. The company has bought billions in assets, acquiring companies in industries where its managers have much less knowledge than the workforce.
“We have come to Copenhagen this year, like every year, because the tens of thousands of Maersk employees speak for ourselves. And we demand consistency from AP Møller-Maersk.” Jafri said.
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