The International Transport Workers' Federation has started a campaign to pressure the government of Madagascar to reinstate 43 dockers who were fired for joining a union. The union shas organized a series of protests outside of Madagascar's embassies in multiple countries, and it has filed a formal complaint calling on the government to give the men back their jobs.
“These workers were sacked for fighting for better wages and against dangerous conditions. After joining their union, they faced intimidation and retaliation from management – who gave them two options: leave the union or lose their jobs," said Steve Cotton, ITF General Secretary. “The workers refused and were sacked, contravening their rights to freedom of association. Most are struggling to survive."
Cotton said that a court in Madagascar had recognized the right of the union SYGMMA to organize the workers at the Port of Toamasina, but the government of Madagascar ignored the ruling and dismissed union participants. The average wage for the dockers is only $40 per month, with a maximum of about $10 per day if container volumes are high; without these wages, the dismissed unionists are struggling to pay the bills, ITF said. Tata Ramilison, one of the 43 men let go, had joined the union because he had not received a wage increase in 27 years. He is now pulling a rickshaw for a living.
ITF notes that ICTSI, the terminal operator at Port of Toasmina, generated a profit margin exceeding 40 percent for 2013 and 2014, with average earnings per TEU approaching $60. By comparison, dockers at Port of Toamasina earn about $0.02 per container.
"Unless the Madagascan Government reinstates the sacked workers they will face international condemnation for failure to observe the basic human rights for their own citizens," Cotton said. "Many international brands in the clothing industry operate factories in Madagascar and they will be watching this case very closely."
Madagascar is among the world's poorest nations, with a GDP per capita of about $460 – about half the level in Bangladesh – and its economy relies on the relatively high wages paid in the garment industry. The Port of Toamasina (Tamatave) is the nation's main export hub for textile products.