Labor Reform and Related Social Issues
ORGANIZING TO ADDRESS
LABOR REFORM: A TASK
Successful port labor reform requires governments,
labor, and private interests to grapple
with a wide range of economic, operational,
social, safety, and cultural issues. To come to
grips with these myriad issues, some governments
have established a labor reform task
force, often headed by the ministry of labor, to
consult with port stakeholders regarding any
changes that might be made in government policies
and practices to improve port productivity
and cost effectiveness.
The labor reform task force should include representatives
of all government agencies and private
sector stakeholders affected by port
- Ministries of transport, labor, finance,
economics, and planning.
- Port authorities.
- Port labor representatives.
- Main port customers and users, including
exporters, importers, carriers and agents,
freight forwarders, and multimodal transport
- Private investors, terminal operators, and
cargo handling and stevedoring companies.
The labor reform task force should conduct its
activities in an open and transparent manner. Its main areas of activity should typically
- Commissioning or conducting studies:
Many governments prefer to be assisted
and guided by expert professionals, retaining
consultancy services to work closely
with management, workers, and other
port stakeholders in assessing the weaknesses
and strengths of labor regimes, collective
agreements, and work practices.
- Organizing seminars and workshops:
These help to build consensus by allowing
all port stakeholders to share their
views and concerns on various issues.
These events also permit employers to
explain to workers what sort of competition
they face, their firms’ financial
performance, and the need to address
- Informing the community and consumers:
Using the media to disseminate
the results of studies and workshops
helps to keep the community and consumers
at large informed, making it easier
to gain their support for necessary
changes. The community and consumers
need to be enlightened as to why port
labor reform is needed, what is involved,
how the main difficulties will be mitigated,
and what the expected benefits are to
the entire economy or country.
- Fostering the creation of joint committees:
Such joint committees between
unions and private terminal operators might address issues affecting operating
efficiency and safety and can help resolve
on-the-dock problems and disputes without
formal government intervention.
- Defining government’s role regarding ports:
Governments should play an active and
focused role in regulating and monitoring
companies that operate in the port system
to ensure that safety and health laws and
regulations are followed. Governments can
assume an active and effective role in promoting
the use of ports for the benefit of
the entire community and economy.
- Developing a workforce rationalization
plan: The task force should draw up and
explain programs for staff restructuring and
rationalization. In developing these programs,
the task force should evaluate a
range of measures including incentive
schemes for early retirement, voluntary separation,
provision of training and retraining,
and career development as well as
assistance in job search and outplacement.
For the task force to be in a position to work
effectively, sufficient budget must be allocated
by all participants’ organizations to make it
possible for the team to complete its tasks and
work schedule. Box 9 describes Australia’s
approach to creating a port reform task force
(Box 10 provides the productivity research conducted
by Australia’s port reform task force).