The International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO is boycotting the 44th Congress of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which is scheduled to begin this Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Singapore. Harold J. Daggett, International ILA President said his union will not send delegates to the ITF Congress to condemn the ITF for its plans to sign an agreement with Ong Teng Cheong Labor Leadership Institute of the Singapore National Trades Union Congress that the ILA believes signals the ITF’s endorsement and acceptance of fully automated terminals.
With President Daggett as its Chief Negotiator, the ILA was successful obtaining a landmark six-year Master Contract Agreement with United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) that prohibits fully automated terminals, fully automated equipment and semi-automated terminals from being implemented at any ILA port on the Atlantic and Gulf Coast.
“We just learned through an ITF press release sent out with great fanfare that the they were agreeing to a so-called study by the Singapore Leadership Institute to examine how best transport workers, including Dockers, quote ‘be ready for the huge changes that are coming in their sector, and this means their unions must be prepared to shape that change’,” said ILA President Daggett. “This is a disgrace that a labor organization like the ITF, that represents 670 affiliate trade unions in 140 countries, representing 19.7 million workers would surrender so easily.”
The ILA leader expressed his outrage to Stephen Cotton, ITF general secretary.
“If Brother Cotton and the ITF agree to a study, they are basically saying that we cannot stop fully automated terminals,” said President Daggett. “Well the ILA proved you can stop it and protect members’ jobs which is what the ITF should be doing and has failed at doing by agreeing to this study.
“I’m calling on all U.S. Maritime Unions and all world-wide Dockers’ unions affiliated with the International Dockers’ Council (IDC) to condemn and reject the ITF for taking this defeatist position that will spell the end of longshore jobs within 10 years,” President Daggett added.
The ILA knows that some unions believe you cannot stop automation. ILA President Daggett said: “That’s bullshit!”
“In our negotiations with USMX, we convinced our employers that human labor can out-perform automated equipment,” President Daggett said. “We fought long and hard in negotiations to win this important issue. You’re taking about members’ lives here and their families. I am furious at the ITF leadership for not making the same effort.”
The time for studies is over – the time for action is now.
Portuguese Dockers are striking over automation and we are behind them 100 percent. In the past decade, conservative Australian governments led to the destruction of the dockworkers’ unions there. For example, a the automated Patrick Stevedoring Terminals in both Brisbane and Sydney, the gang size is four because of automation. In Melbourne at the more fully automated ICTSI terminal in Melbourne, cranes are driven remotely the gang size is down to three.
Fully automated terminals can be found in Southern California and Mexico, further eroding jobs and jeopardizing the future of unions there.
In countries where the government has interfered with collective bargaining agreements, memberships have been destroyed. Through oppressive regimes and yellow unions, workers’ rights have been stripped. It is no coincidence that automation has flourished in areas where members’ rights are crushed.
The ILA remains concerned that some unions in Singapore were puppets of a restrictive government undermining democracy and freedom to organize.
The ILA added that Singapore port operator PSA Singapore earlier this year showcased an exhibit touting its “advanced port technologies,” including data analytics, robotics, amphibious drones, automated quay cranes, exoskeletons for port staff and robotic arms for related container activities.
“This is the environment in Singapore – eliminate the worker with more automation – and here you have our world-wide labor organization, the ITF, coming here and signing agreements that mean the destruction of decent paying jobs,” said President Daggett.
All transportation unions affiliated with the ITF are facing grave threats due to automation. Driverless trucks could destroy the Teamsters. A major American cable news network reported recently about a self-driving truck hauling 51,744 cans of Budweiser across the state of Colorado. Companies are making huge profits and union members are losing jobs.
Members of our own International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots and all Seafarer Unions may see their entire membership wiped out because of automation – ships with no captains, seaman and deckhands. It will become commonplace for a tugboat to move a crewless container or break-bulk ship out to sea a few miles with a lone person sitting at a desk somewhere in the world then navigating the ship across an ocean.
Railroad unions are waging a vigorous campaign fighting automation.
And many unions are fighting a double-edged sword: the threats from automation and unions fighting each other over jurisdiction.
The ILA calls on all unions around the world to boycott the 44th ITF Congress in Singapore.
“The ILA has had a long and beneficial partnership with the ITF going back decades,” said ILA President Daggett. “Our former ILA Presidents Teddy Gleason and John Bowers chaired the worldwide Dockers Section of the ITF. No one takes solidarity more seriously than the ILA but we cannot support nor accept this action by the ITF. A study on automation today becomes a policy on automation tomorrow and an out-of-work union member after that.
“Instead of signing agreements for Automation studies, we should start an organization and campaign around the world involving all unions to fight for our rights and the future to all unions to protect our jobs and come together as a brotherhood,” the ILA leader charged. “If you’re in negotiations, take a strong stand against automation. Do not give in.”
“Automation will spell the death of unions everywhere,” President Daggett concluded. “It’s time for workers everywhere to declare war on automation.”