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Federal Maritime Commissioners Carl Bentzel (pictured above) and Daniel Maffei have written to US president Joe Biden urging his new administration to classify the country’s dockers and maritime workforce as essential workers, and expedite a vaccination programme across the workforce.
Coronavirus cases among US dockworkers have soared in recent weeks. The letter was delivered as it was revealed that nearly 2,000 US dockworkers have tested positive for Covid-19.
The International Longshoreman’s Association, covering the east and Gulf coasts, has recorded 784 positive cases among members, while the west coast’s ILWU has recorded 1,034.
The commissioners wrote: “We recommend that this essential workforce be prioritised for vaccinations, and in the interim be given access to rapid testing in order to help minimise workplace disruption, given their critical role in moving medical supplies, personal protective equipment and handling what is an unprecedented amount of consumer goods arriving at our gateway ports.
“While we recognise that prioritisation for vaccination will be determined by the individual states, we believe that the administration should emphasise the need to keep the supply chain transport workforce in mind as each state deploys rapid Covid-19 testing and implements the vaccination process.
“A large-scale workforce disruption from Covid-19 would be disastrous for the immediate and long-term fluidity of the supply chain and delivery of goods to Americans.”