ETI: Expressing support for sacked Madagascan dock workers

Following a request from the International Transport Federation, ETI wrote to the Madagascan government to raise concerns about the unfair dismissal of 43 dock workers in the port of Toamasina (also known as Tamatave) for union activity. We did this on behalf of Next Plc, M&S, Men’s Warehouse UK and Skins Ltd, which source goods from Madagascar.

Madagascan companies manufacture garments or produce products for ETI members, which are then exported through Toamasina, one of Madagascar’s major container terminals.

Recently, SYGMMA (the local dock workers’ union), the International Transport Federation (ITF) and the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) felt they had no option but to:

  • Submit a complaint to the International Labour Organisation on behalf of the dock workers.
  • Start advocating on the dock workers’ behalf with wider stakeholders.

The dock workers had joined SYGMMA in the hope of improving the precarious and often unsafe working conditions at the port. In response, they faced intimidation and unfair dismissal by their employer.

International labour standards
ETI and our members are committed to the ETI Base Code of labour standards, which recognises and supports the rights of workers in supply chains.

In line with the United Nations General Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), this support extends to workers loading products in docks. Furthermore, the ETI Base Code includes the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, which we firmly believe is a vital component of successful industrial relations.

That’s why, when ITF approached us for support, we thought it right to contact our members and ask for their backing.

Not only were we concerned for the dock workers themselves, we were also concerned that action against legitimate union activity would deter investor confidence in Madagascar as a future sourcing market. As we have written before, investors increasingly expect stronger links between business and the human rights agenda.

A thriving industrial sector
ETI and our members recognise just how important a thriving industrial sector is to the Madagascan economy and as a source of decent work for Madagascans.

In the letter to the government, we confirmed that our members wanted to continue sourcing from Madagascar but equally had to consider obligations to comply with international standards.

With the full support of our members, we therefore asked that the government of Madagascar take steps to enforce its labour laws, ensure that the 43 dock workers were reinstated and allow the union to organise at the port.

ITF has now delivered the ETI letter to the Madagascan government on our behalf and we and our company members await developments.

By: Martin Buttle
Source: Ethical Trading Initiative