Unions grill Maersk over labor issues Ship’s crew

Unions representing workers and contractors at Maersk met in Copenhagen this week to raise concerns about labor issues with the shipping company’s management.

Unions from the Netherlands, the United States and Australia commented on issues ranging from the reduced use of the word “union” in the annual report to Maersk’s refusal to engage in collective bargaining with its workforce. They also cited Maersk’s Svitzer tug division’s attempt to cut workers’ wages by 47% in Australia and undermine wages and working conditions in Argentina through subcontracting.

The gathering comes as Maersk reported record profits of $29 billion in 2022.

“By refusing to bargain collectively with unions, Maersk is breaking its own values, which commits the company to upholding this important human and labor right,” said Jacqueline Smith, maritime coordinator for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

The ITF is a federation of unions representing Maersk employees and contractors who are seafarers, dockers, tugboats and logisticians.

The company’s annual general meeting will be held remotely this year, with an explanation that Maersk is unable to organize an in-person meeting due to its internal restructuring, the ITF said. Unions are therefore asked to submit their concerns in writing, rather than raising their concerns in person as in previous years.

However, the unions have traveled to Copenhagen to deliver their message in person.

“Maersk needs to know that through good times and bad, the voice of the workforce is constant. We will always be here to be a critical friend and to hold them accountable for their performance and behavior towards the working people who keep their supply chains running,” Smith said.

Karsten Kristensen, Chair of the ITF’s Maersk union network and Vice-Chair of the Danish union 3F’s transport group, explained that shareholders and the public in Maersk’s home country of Denmark expect the company to share its success with its workforce and the wider community.

“With great gain comes great responsibility. These are the good times when Maersk has no excuse but to live up to its values ​​in every corner of the world. In Denmark and abroad,” said Kristensen.

Maersk has come under criticism lately for paying a much lower tax rate than employees in many of the countries where it operates, including Denmark. Research by the Center for Tax Transparency CICTAR found An employee with an average income in Denmark pays 13 times the tax rate paid by Maersk.

The unions called on Maersk to listen to workers’ voices and address their concerns, saying that given the uncertain future of the shipping sector, it is more important than ever for the company to listen to the concerns of its workforce.

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