Trade Union Wins in Aqaba Dispute

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) is pleased to announce that port workers at the Aqaba Container Terminals (ACT) facility in Jordan run by APM Terminals have gained a victory following international protests against a police roundup of union members.

Workers represented by the ITF-affiliated General Union of Port Workers went on strike last week over contract changes and ACT management’s failure to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement due since July. Almost as soon as the strike began police raided the site and arrested 150, including the union’s leaders. Despite this and the attempted pre-prepared use of strikebreakers, the union – buoyed by support from the ITF and its affiliated unions in the region and globally – maintained its strike. It has now won its case, including the company’s waiving all penalties imposed during the strike, in particular rescinding 23 sackings; and a renewed commitment from the Jordanian government to have its grievances addressed by the national labour court.

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Picture of union leaders being arrested last week

Paddy Crumlin, ITF president and chair of the ITF dockers’ section, commented: “Everything about this affair smacks of pre-preparedness: sudden provocative contract changes, refusal to negotiate, then as soon as industrial action is taken in response, a sudden police raid and the arrival of strikebreakers. It looks a lot like an attempt to break the union. Well, the result has been the opposite – the union has won and has been made stronger. It’s being applauded by workforces outside the terminal for its stand and for its strong friendships.”

Mahmoud Mansour, vice president of the General Union of Port Workers, commented: “This victory came not just from our members’ determination, but from the support of the ITF and its affiliates. Our workers never lost sight for a minute of how many colleagues were supporting us across this region and worldwide.”

Paddy Crumlin concluded: “This victory comes at the same time as another one in Bahrain, where Svitzer, which provides services to the terminal run by APMT, had planned to make 11 tugboat crew redundant. There union action and solidarity, especially from trade unions in the Arab World, has again triumphed, with all 11 either getting their jobs back or choosing to take compensation and voluntary redundancy.”