About 100 members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and other transport unions rallied outside the Madagascar Consulate on February 28, as part of a global campaign by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) in solidarity with 43 unfairly sacked dockworkers at the Port of Toamasina, Madagascar.
The unionists were calling on the Madagascan government to take action to have the dockworkers reinstated.
The ITF organised rallies outside Madagascan embassies and consulates in Sydney, Washington, Brussels, Rotterdam, Paris, Istanbul and Helsinki on the day.
ITF general secretary Steve Cotton said: “These workers were sacked for fighting for better wages and against dangerous conditions. After joining their union, they faced intimidation and retaliation from management, who gave them two options: leave the union or lose their jobs.
“The workers refused and were sacked, contravening their rights to freedom of association. Most are struggling to survive.
“The Court of Madagascar recognised that the union, SYGMMA, had the right to organise at the Port of Toamasina. To date, none of the 43 workers who were dismissed for union activity have been reinstated.”
Assistant national secretary of the MUA Warren Smith told the crowd: "The 43 workers were unjustly sacked for joining a union. The company that runs the port, ICTSI, is one of the most brutal, profit-hungry, anti-union waterfront companies in the world.
"They are attempting to smash unions, and resort to violence and even murder against workers in various countries. This will be a long battle, but we are determined to win."
MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer said: "These workers in Madagascar have to move 10,000 boxes [containers] in order to earn $200. We will fight alongside the Madagascan dockworkers until they win."
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said the government of Madagascar is on notice that the global union movement is standing with the Toamasina workers. "We will not rest until these workers get justice. These actions today will send a clear message — these workers must be allowed to go back to work."
The ICTSI-operated Port of Toamasina is the main gateway for $360 million worth of textile products exported to Europe, $100 million to South Africa, and $60 million to the US. Major international brands source clothing in Madagascar, including Levi Strauss.
The campaign is calling on people to email the government of Madagascar to show their support for the 43 workers.
More information on the campaign is available here.