The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has claimed a victory in a dispute over contract changes at Aqaba Container Terminal, which the terminal operator APM Terminals (APMT) has disputed.
Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT), which is part-owned by APMT, has been negotiating a new collective contract with its workers’ union, ITF-affiliated General Union of Port Workers (GUPW) since March 2014.
The contract expired in June and, according to APMT, the case was referred to the Ministry of Labour for the formal mediation and arbitration process as the two sides could not agree on terms.
APMT said in a statement that any strike, after the case has been referred in this way, is illegal. Despite this, APMT said, workers struck in July and again in October when police attended.
The ITF claimed that 150 people were arrested in a “sudden police raid” whereas APMT claim that ACT did not call the police and that the police came to separate striking and strike-breaking union members, arresting four people briefly “for security reasons”.
The ITF said that their “victory” included the fact that 23 people who were sacked during (or as a consequence of) the strike got their jobs back. APMT said: “This is not factually correct; internal regulations were followed and no dismissals took place.”
Workers have now returned to work and both sides are awaiting the decision of the national labour court.
The ITF claimed “a renewed commitment from the Jordanian government to have its grievances addressed by the national labour court” as a victory. However APMT claimed that the case was referred to the labour court before the strikes.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “Everything about this affair smacks of pre-preparedness: sudden provocative contract changes, refusal to negotiate, then as soon as industrial action is taken in response, a sudden police raid and the arrival of strike-breakers.”
APMT regional CEO Peder Sondergaard said: “We find the ITF’s statements misleading, incorrect and not supported by facts. Clearly, the ITF has not received accurate information from its affiliate organisation in Jordan.”
He continued: “The strike was premature and illegal especially when held during a formal mediation process – which cannot be interpreted as a union victory.”
Aqaba Container Terminal is Jordan’s only container terminal and is relatively small, not making it into CM’s World Top 120 Container Ports.