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Shipping Container Terminal Operator
Penalised for Health and Safety Issues

by Staff
Handy Shipping Guide, April 17, 2014

Ongoing Labour Unrest with Company Affects Ports on Two Continents

The Columbia River looking upstream toward Terminal 6 US -- HONDURAS -- The longstanding dispute between the longshoremen who work in the Port of Portland and employers simmers on, and the latest development will doubtless engender an 'I told you so' from the dock workers who are employed at the ICTSI Oregon container shipping terminal based within the East Coast port. For more than two years the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) has stood accused by the operator of illegally slowing down work whilst, for its part, the union has repeatedly claimed that Health and Safety measures are not as they should be.

Now the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the company, which took over the running of Terminal 6 in 2010, a total of $18,360 for breaches of safety which were said to have been uncovered during a routine inspection at the North Portland site. Although no injuries were apparent from the company's failings, over a dozen violations were revealed including insufficient guards fitted to machinery and lack of risk appraisals and information for staff exposed to airborne lead and its potentially deleterious effects.

The company still has a right to appeal and no mention of the problems appear anywhere on the ICTSI Oregon website, nor on that of its Philippine based parent company, International Container Terminal Services Inc., which operates ports around the world, nor was any statement forthcoming. The offences are grist to the workers mill, as internationally the employer is already under attack after accusations of serious wrongdoing at its Honduran operation where the father of local union boss Victor Crespo was murdered in January, Crespo himself having fled the country three months previously after assaults and death threats.

In March the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) said it had won a promise from the Honduran ambassador to the UK to investigate the death threats and victimisation of trade unionists in the city of Puerto Cort├ęs where the local union, Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM), has been trying to negotiate with the ICTSI subsidiary over a collective bargaining agreement for workers at the port since ICTSI took it over in 2012.

The ILWU workers refused to cross a SGTM picket line last month when the Honduran union blocked entrances to the Oregon terminal and Victor Crespo himself spoke at the London meeting on the 21st March with the Honduran ambassador. Commenting on the ruling by the Oregon authorities to fine the company, ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent, speaking from San Francisco, said:

"We're grateful that OSHA is stepping in to hold ICTSI accountable for its failure to protect the men and women who work at Terminal 6. ICTSI is accustomed to operating in low-wage countries where workers don't have the same rights we have in the United States."

Shipping Container Terminal Operator Penalised for Health and Safety Issues
Handy Shipping Guide, April 17, 2014

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