The Port of Toamasina is the main gateway for $360m worth of textile products exported to Europe

The Port of Toamasina is the main gateway for $360m worth of textile products exported to Europe

An ongoing dispute between a group of Madagascan dock workers, the country's government and port operator ICTSI could come to a head today (12 June) as the groups gather for talks with the aim of reaching a resolution.

Around 43 workers were fired earlier this year after making demands for better working conditions, according to The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). The union says casual dock workers are carrying out their duties without safety equipment, and "struggle to make ends meet" on their wages.

The Government of Madagascar is now facing an International Labour Organization (ILO) complaint over the dispute.

Global denim giant Levi Strauss & Co had been called on by unions to extend its policies on improving workers' rights in its factories to those of transport workers in Madagascar. The company, alongside fashion brand Esprit, is now backing the workers, according to ITF, and has called on the government to "uphold basic labour rights".

Levi Strauss urged to help end "exploitation" of Madagascan dockworkers

Protests are expected at Parliament today as ITF, and local Madagascan union SYGMMA, meet with the Minister of Public Service, Labor & Social Law, Jean de Dieu Maharante, with a request that the Madagascan Government enforce the Supreme Court ruling and resolve the worsening dispute.

The Supreme Court of Madagascar ruled that the workers should be reinstated, but the Government has refused so far to enforce the decision.

"We will keep fighting for justice for these workers," says ITF president and dockers' section chair Paddy Crumlin. "The government and ICTSI need to agree to work with the unions to improve safety and working conditions at the port. The first step is to accept the court ruling and let them get back to work.

"The other message we will be giving the government is ICTSI is a rogue operator. They boast about charging hugely inflated prices of US$250 to move a container through their African ports while paying their workers as little as $40 per month. ICTSI were a bad choice to operate the port.

"The ITF will be delivering this message today in Madagascar and in the future across Africa – wherever ICTSI are looking to expand into. There are better operators for governments to partner with."

The ICTSI operated Port of Toamasina is the main gateway for $360m worth of textile products exported to Europe, $100m to South Africa, and $60m to the US. Major international brands source clothing in Madagascar include Esprit, Eddie Bauera, Camaieu and Levi Strauss.