Trade unions representing employees and contractors at Maersk gathered in Copenhagen this week to raise concerns about labor issues with management at the shipping company.
Unions from the Netherlands, the United States, and Australia spoke out on issues ranging from reduced use of the word ‘union’ in the Annual Report to Maersk’s refusal to collectively bargain with its workforce. In addition, they cited Maersk’s tug division Svitzer’s attempt to cut workers’ pay by 47% in Australia and undermine wages and conditions in Argentina via subcontracting.
The gathering comes as Maersk reported a record $29 billion profit in 2022.
“By refusing to collectively bargain with unions, Maersk is breaking its own values which commits the company to upholding this important human and labour right,” said Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The ITF is a federation of unions representing Maersk employees and contractors who are seafarers, dockers, tug and towage, and logistics workers.
The company’s annual general meeting is being held remotely this year, with the explanation given that Maersk is unable to organize an in-person meeting amid its internal restructuring, the ITF said. Unions are therefore invited to hand over their concerns in writing, rather than voicing their concerns in person as has been the case in previous years.
However, the unions have traveled to Copenhagen to deliver their message in person.
“Maersk needs to know that in good times and in bad, the voice of labour is constant. We will always be here to be a critical friend: holding them to account for their performance and conduct toward the working people who keep their supply chains moving,” said Smith.
Karsten Kristensen, chair of the ITF’s Maersk Network of unions and Deputy Chairman of the Transport Group at Danish union 3F, stated that shareholders and the public in Maersk’s home country of Denmark expected the company to be sharing its success with its workforce and the wider community.
“With great profit comes great responsibility. These are the good times, when Maersk has no excuse but to live up to its values in every corner of the globe. In Denmark, and overseas,” said Kristensen.
Maersk has come under criticism recently for paying a much lower rate of tax than workers in many of the countries in which it operates, including Denmark. Research by tax transparency center CICTAR found a worker earning an average income in Denmark pays 13 times the rate of tax paid by Maersk.
The unions called for Maersk to listen to the voice of labor and address their concerns, stating that with the future of the shipping sector uncertain, it is more important than ever for the company to listen to the concerns of its workforce.
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