© Khunaspix Dreamstime.

APM Terminals today responded to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) “victory” statement on the new contract at Jordanian gateway Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT), and claimed “misleading information had been cited”.

APMT denied ITF claims that 150 people had been arrested by police during a strike last week and that 23 workers had been dismissed at the facility, and said the ITF’s statements were “misleading, incorrect and not supported by facts”.

Negotiations between ACT and the ITF-affiliated General Union of Port Workers (GUPW) on a new collective labour agreement began in March, but became deadlocked when the previous contract expired in June.

The matter was then referred to the Jordanian Labour Court for arbitration and, under the country’s labour laws, during this process neither side is permitted to take industrial action – strikes or lock-outs.

Despite a ruling from the arbitration hearing being “expected soon”, the GUPW was concerned at the length of time that had elapsed and decided to ramp up the pressure by calling a strike, which APMT regarded as “illegal”.

Following police intervention, ITF general secretary, Steve Cotton wrote to Jordan’s Prime Minister, Abdullah Ensour, complaining about the “interference by the police forces in a labour dispute” and requesting his intervention “immediately to prevent the situation from deteriorating further”.

The ITF also released photo of what it said were several union leaders that appear to be handcuffed in the back of a police van:

Union leaders arrested and held in police van (4)

However, APMT today said ACT had signed a MOU with the local GUPW whereby the dockers had agreed to “return to work and respect the formal process already in place”. The ITF said that ACT had agreed to waive “all penalties imposed during the strike, in particular rescinding 23 sackings”.

APMT regional chief officer Peder Sondergaard said: “The Aqaba Container Terminal looks forward to working with the union to conclude this case and move forward. We have important work to do together to make the Jordanian gateway attractive to global trade.”

In a statement released by the ITF on Tuesday, president and chair of the ITF dockers’ section Paddy Crumlin said: “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 strike breakers.”

He argued that it “looked like an attempt to break the union”, but that the opposite had been the result and the union had “won and has been made stronger”.

ACT operates under a 25-year build-operate-transfer structure signed in 2006 and is a joint venture between Aqaba Development Corporation and APMT.

Throughput at ACT reached last year 872,809 teu, compared with the 405,658 teu processed during 2006 as the size of the vessels handled has evolved from feeders to super post-panamax.

According to a privatisation report issued by the Jordanian government in March, gantry crane productivity at ACT improved from 24 moves per hour in 2007 to 29 in 2013, and the number of port calls from 378 to 443 during the same period.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.