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Published: 12 October 2017      

ICTSI fires back

After being denounced by the ITF as being responsible for labour rights violations at terminals around the world, ICTSI defends its record in corporate social responsibility.

This week the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) issued a reporting claiming to uncover “an emerging pattern of labour rights violations” at ICTSI operated terminals beyond Madagasgar and Indonesia, where it is currently engaged in labour disputes. “Severe labour violations can be found throughout ICTSI’s global network,” the ITF claims.

The ITF has gone beyond running a campaign for better pay and working conditions at specific terminals operated by ICTSI. It is now trying to stop what it sees as a company that is a threat to union controlled port environments from extending its global terminal network.

ICTSI declined to respond directly to the ITF report or its press release. It has, however, issued a statement praising equipment operators at its flagship Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) in the Philippines for achieving monthly targets and setting productivity records in August and September, and setting out its broader corporate philosophy in respect of labour and global expansion.
 
ICTSI claims MICT is the model it wants to replicate at its global network of terminals. Since 2000, MICT has been rewarding its operators for productivity “and, as a result, ICTSI enjoys a very low turnover rate,” said Jay Valdez, MICT operations director.
 
“Every time we meet our monthly target, we give special citations to the 10 most productive operators per equipment category, a simple way to thank them for their hard work and dedication to ensuring MICT operates with maximum efficiency.  More importantly, these individuals serve as role models for their colleagues to emulate,” he adds.
 
 “As an inclusive business, ICTSI remains committed to the safety and welfare of our equipment operators. They put themselves at risk operating these massive machines, and it is but proper that we look after their safety and welfare,” said Christian Gonzalez, ICTSI senior vice president and head of Asia Pacific and MICT.

Gonzalez also stressed that ICTSI aims to “make our equipment operators realize that they are key in driving the Philippine economy.  ICTSI management and labor work hand in hand in helping this country grow further.  We also cascade the same labor strategies and share the same global standards and best practices to our global portfolio of 31 terminals in 18 countries.  These have made ICTSI a major global player in the port sector,” he adds.
 
Like other global terminal operators, ICTSI subsidiaries regularly send personnel to other terminals within the Group for training, secondment and other assignment overseas, to both share best practices and improve the technical skills of employees.
 
“One of ICTSI’s core strengths is a highly capable manpower.  It’s really the key to the way we operate all of our terminal concessions worldwide.  We start by bringing people in from our headquarters in Manila to jumpstart operations and train the locals who will eventually take over once everything is in place.  But at the end, our goal is for each of our terminals to be run by 100 percent local manpower.  

“Aside from the technical expertise that we pass on to our subsidiaries, we also teach them hard work and perseverance including leadership and self-improvement skills such as personal financial management.  We want our employees to be empowered. Having the right work attitude, combined with the technical know-how, sets our employees apart from the rest of the industry,” concluded Gonzalez.

For the ITF, however, none of this rings true. “The ITF, and our union affiliates, have observed an emerging pattern of labour violations in the ICTSI network: a failure to respect the right to freedom of association; poor safety standards; and illegal outsourcing of labour. Many of these violations are in breach of domestic law in the countries where ICTSI operates and contravene international labour conventions. They also contravene ICTSI’s own policies and statements, and call into question the company’s ability to effectively manage their global business and ensure the same standards and performance across all their terminals.” 

The report signals a much more militant stance from the ITF. President Paddy Crumlin has previously referred to ICTSI as a "two dollar company" that has no respect for labour rights. The Maritime Union Of Australia, which Crumlin heads, certainly holds a grudge against ICTSI after it was unable to stop the company gaining the concession to operate, and automate the new container terminal in Melbourne.

Commenting on that event Crumlin has said "we knew then that we had to reach out further than just this wonderful labour community here in this country (Australia), we had to reach out and had to grasp what globalisaion was all about". 

The ITF is now taking its fight to a global level. “Governments, investors and financiers that seek to partner with ICTSI should be concerned about this emerging pattern of violations, which indicate that as the company has grown to become a global ports player, it has not put in place sufficient oversight measures to ensure compliance with global norms and standards across their whole network. ICTSI’s governance failures suggest that the company’s future expansion may be accompanied by increasing volatility and risk due to protracted industrial disputes and safety failures,” the ITF stated.



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