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  • Automation A Major Concern For Dockworkers Worldwide
    Posted On: Jul 10, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, July 11, 2016

    In a Global Day of Action Thursday, dockworkers held a rolling one-hour strike, temporarily shutting down ports around the world.  The International Dockers Council and the International Transport Workers federation coordinated the strike in order to draw attention to a wide array of issues affecting their members worldwide.  One of the most crucial issues facing dockworkers is automation.  ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton describes to Canada’s Radio Labour the fallout resulting from automation on the docks:

    [Stephen Cotton]: “Automation for workers means they may lose their current jobs and their current positions.  Where employers put in high-technology equipment, we would hope to see more job opportunities.  The union response is a situation where we have to react to each different region, even each different port.  In particular, those unions that have experienced automation in Rotterdam and in North America with an intention to ensure that they can show the best practice that has created job opportunities, secured higher-profile jobs to maintain the equipment, and ultimately to put us in a position where we can formulate a consistent approach to automation on a global basis”

    International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesperson Craig Merilees from San Francisco tells WIN that automation is also a major problem here in the U.S.:

    [Craig Merilees]: “In the United States companies’ are getting big subsidies to implement automation project that probably wouldn’t be able to be supported on their own without lavish, sometimes extensive, public subsidies.  That’s a concern, both for the dockworkers and for the public interest that may not be served by making large investments that displace large numbers of workers and seem to benefit primarily the international, multinational corporations that control most of the terminal operations and the big shipping lines in the world.”

    Merilees sees automation as a part of a move by corporations in many industries to replace skilled work with lower-paying unskilled labor:

    [Craig Merilees]: “Like everywhere, corporations are trying to de-skill jobs, trying to automate them, trying to take away what little bit of discretion and independence and decision making that dockers and other workers have over their jobs…and either ascribe those to…sometimes to computers, sometimes to bosses…but, in the end, it means that the value of work that’s done just isn’t respected.”


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