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Shipbuilding and shipbreaking unions take action

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24 September, 2020IndustriALL Shipbuilding shipbreaking action group met online on 22 September to discuss global trends in the sectors and agree on an action plan going forward.

In his opening remarks, sector co-chair Kenichi Kanda from Japanese union JBU/JCM said:

“I wish you all to stay safe, and reaffirm this action group’s commitment to achieve this, as Covid continues to wreak havoc, making it difficult to carry out activities as normal. But we must continue to mobilize our forces and strengthen the ties between us.”

Eileen Yeo Chor Gek, sector co-chair said:

“The pandemic has hit hard on employment in some segments. We need to find a way forward to upgrade skills and to advocate for jobs.”

A survey among the unions in the sectors on the impact of Covid-19 and union responses, reveals that:

  • Half of the unions/countries have secured occupational health and safety and jobs
  • Unions in cruise, ferry, offshore platform and shipbreaking are concerned about employment in the coming years
  • Subcontractors, women, youth and migrants are hardest hit and face a job crisis in many countries
  • Securing social distance at the yards/in confined spaces is an important challenge
  • Policies on Just Transition, green tech/recovery, Industry 4.0, and skill training/development need to be developed and implemented

Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL director for shipbuilding and shipbreaking, says:

“The survey shows that many shipbuilding unions have succeeded in securing health and safety and jobs of union members. However, we see that subcontractors, women, youth and migrant workers in many countries will face an employment crisis and we need to increase our organizing activities for them.”

Covid-19 is impacting the different sectors in different ways. The commercial sector of shipbuilding, especially cruise, ferry and offshore platform are struggling to get new orders or maintain its order book to secure levels of employment in the coming years. The supply chain in the maritime industry is gradually recovering. Most yards in the naval sector are operating at the same levels as in 2019.

The pandemic is accelerating the ongoing process of re-organizing and restructuring in the shipbuilding industry. After the merger between CSSC and CSIC (the world’s largest shipbuilder with 310,000 employees in China), mega shipyard merger such as Hyundai Heavy Industries-HHI/DSME and Fincantieri/Chantiers De L’Atlantique are in the pipeline.

IndustriALL’s Executive Committee adopted a resolution on Hyundai Heavy Industries’ Acquisition of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering in South Korea in 2019, over concerns about the lack of transparency in negotiations over the merger and the significant threat to workers and unions along the supply chain of the shipbuilding industry.

Shipbreaking is at its lowest level of activity in ten years. The industry in South Asia has resumed activities after the lockdown period from March to May, but levels of operation remain low. The shipbreaking unions in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are working to secure jobs.

India is the world’s largest shipbreaking country and ratified the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in 2019. IndustriALL affiliate ASSRGWA will become a member of the Hong Kong Convention implementing committee set up by the government.

“The development of the Hong Kong Convention is very positive, as the number of countries needed is now achieved. One of the biggest flag states and one of the biggest shipbreaking states are needed, and then all requirements for the convention to come into force are in place,”

said Vidyahar Rane, sector vice chair.
In line with IndustriALL’s political statement on Covid-19, the action group agreed to: 

  • Provide education and training on health and safety (Covid-19) with a gender perspective, promoting the participation of women and youth where necessary
  • Focus on lobbying Bangladesh to sign the HKC, as well as major flag states
  • Continue to promote IndustriALL’s sustainable industrial policy at all levels of union activities, including skills development

“Today’s meeting with unions from all continents confirms the need and willingness to stand together during this crisis. We celebrate that we are now very close to a global ratification of the Hong Kong Convention. But many workers in our industries are among the hardest hit by the pandemic; those without social protection. We must continue to fight to ensure that no one is left behind and IndustriALL will take action in line with the political statement on Covid-19,”

said Atle Høie, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.