In numerous developing countries, as well as in some industrialized ones, existing port labor regimes, collective agreements, and management and labor practices are inflexible, outdated, and inefficient. Consequently, they hinder the development of the commercial and operating environments that ports require to respond to the increasing demands of customers and competitive markets. Governments, as a result, must appraise, in consultation with other port stakeholders, the extent to which labor regimes, collective agreements, and labor and management practices serve as a barrier to the achievement of the portís commercial goals.
In conducting this appraisal, many issues have to be addressed, including, but not limited to:
Some port reformers have opened labor markets to competition as an approach to address these issues. In this context, the existence of inflexible and exclusive dock labor boards or union labor pools runs counter to the desire to increase management discretion over the recruitment, qualification, and use of specific employees.
Many government-owned and operated ports face not just one of these issues, but a combination of them. And solving these issues is critical to any successful port reform strategy. Simply shifting the burden of these issues from a public authority to the private sector, however, will do little or nothing to resolve them. Box 6 shows how certain port reforms can affect employment conditions and labor management relations.