The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has complained to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over Argentina’s government interference in the affairs of the country’s top maritime union.
The complaints followed the removal of the Sindicato de Obreros Maritimos Unidos (SOMU)’s elected unions leaders and confiscation of equipment during an armed police’s raid of SOMU’s offices in February.
A Federal Judge of Argentina also ordered a judicial intervention of SOMU to investigate possible alleged irregular activities of three people, including the union’s general secretary.
The ITF claimed that the Argentinian government violated its obligations under ILO Convention 87 by placing SOMU under its control.
In a statement, the ITF requested the Argentinian government to “immediately hand back of SOMU to its elected leadership and its members”.
According to a statement, ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton wrote to member of congress Gladys Gonzalez, who reportedly described herself as the new leader of SOMU since the government takeover.
The ITF argued in a statement that the Argentine government’s interference “restricts the rights of SOMU, its officials and its members to organise their administration and activities in full freedom”.
Cotton said in a statement: “No intervention that violates the principles contained in ILO Convention 87 and 98, that may attempt to disrespect a union’s self determination or constitutional provisions, that may lead to seizing workers’ assets or property or that may try to deny their legitimately elected leadership, has any legal or moral validity.”
Last week, union leaders from Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Netherlands, Panama, Russia, Switzerland, UK and Uruguay passed an emergency resolution supporting SOMU.
The leaders, who represented inland navigation workers, strongly condemned the raids as well as recent judicial intervention over alleged irregular activities.
According to a statement, the leaders also “questioned the legality of these actions and urged the Argentine government to respect the union’s constitution and hand back the union assets to SOMU”.
Nick Bramley, Inland Navigation Section Chair, said in a statement: “The ITF family calls on the Argentine government to hand SOMU to its members. This intervention not only violates ILO Conventions 87 and 98 ratified by Argentina it also takes us back to a dark era in the region’s recent history and the struggle for democracy and workers’ rights.”
Ivan de la Guardia, general secretary of Unión de Capitanes y Oficiales de Cubierta (UCOC) and national coordinator of ITF affiliates in Panama, said: “We strongly express our support for SOMU as a sister organisation that has, for a long time, provided solidarity in Panama, Latin America and across the world.
“The situation must be resolved and SOMU must have its independence restored.”
The country’s President Mauricio Macri was elected in November last year.