ITF joins dockworkers in protesting U.S. fines

The International Transport Workers’ Federation joined Japan’s dockworkers Mar. 6 in denouncing the U.S. decision to impose penalties on three Japanese shipping lines over what it charges are unfair port practices.

“This is such a dangerous precedent for other countries that we cannot allow this to happen in Japan,” said David Cockroft, General Secretary of the London-based ITF, at a news conference in Tokyo. Cockroft emphasized that “this is not just a Japanese question.”

On Feb. 26, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission announced that it will impose a $100,000 penalty every time one of three Japanese shipping lines has a ship enter a U.S. port. The sanctions were made in hopes of getting Japan to deregulate its shipping industry and amend so-called prior consultation practices with port laborers.

Also attending the news conference were officials from the Japanese Council of Dock Workers’ Unions (Zenkoku-kowan) and the All Japan Dockworkers’ Union. Tetsuya Sakano, chairman of Zenkoku-kowan, said that a 24-hour strike is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. March 12 to demonstrate worker opposition to pressures from the U.S. FMC and the EU. It also will be used as a call against deregulation and as a springboard for new labor demands during this year’s labor negotiations.

Cockroft, who arrived in Japan on Mar. 3, condemned the European Union’s criticism of Japan’s prior consultation system, noting that “on a global basis we see this (deregulation) as a kind of disease, spreading from country to country.” To prevent the FMC from imposing the sanctions, Cockroft said that the ITF “shall be continuing to organize diplomatic, confidential lobbying, and if necessary direct action by maritime unions against this activity.”