Labor Toolkit

Labor Reform and Related Social Issues


A realistic and responsible port reform initiative must recognize and deal with the possible adverse human and social effects that may result from implementation. To ensure that dock workers’ rights and interests are properly taken into account, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) recommends that policy makers should involve labor at all stages of port reform.

The principal areas of interest for port labor include, but are not limited to:

Historically, trade unions have worked to advocate these interests. And trade unions can be expected to continue to play an important role in the port community during and after the period of reform implementation. Government authorities, when undertaking reform, must recognize this legitimate and important role and should not view port reform predominantly as an opportunity to break trade unions or otherwise undermine their role in protecting workers’ interests.

Despite the critical role that labor plays in ports, many countries have designed and implemented port reform adjustment programs without the involvement of workers’ representatives and unions.

Failure of governments to secure constructive labor involvement in port reforms can typically be traced to:

Governments, however, have much to gain from involving labor early and effectively in the port reform process. Port labor is one of the most valuable assets of the port community. This pool of trained personnel is a deep source of practical knowledge with vast experience in port operations. This source can be tapped to contribute problem-solving expertise and innovation to add value to the goods and services of customers.

On the other hand, labor unions themselves must face a number of crucial challenges to adjust and optimize their own effectiveness when dealing with reform. As listed by a former ITF official, the main challenges include:

Box 8 presents an example of the reference to the port labor clauses in a concession agreement.


How To Use The Toolkit


Framework for Port Reform

The Evolution of Ports in a Competitive World

Alternative Port Management Structures and Ownership Models

Legal Tools for Port Reform

Financial Implications of Port Reform

Port Regulation:
Overseeing the Economic Public Interest in Ports

Labor Reform and Related Social Issues

Context for Labor Reform

Key Labor Issues

Labor Involvement in Port Reform

Organizing to Address Labor Reform: A Task Force Approach

The Institutional Framework for Labor Reform

Developing the Workforce Rationalization Plan

International Support for Labor Adjustment

Postreform Labor Management Relations

Annex I and II

Implementing Port Reform


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Additional Materials

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