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Dockers unions take action against Putin’s Ukraine invasion

news Press Release

Following last week’s call from transport unions for an immediate ceasefire to the conflict in Ukraine, the global labour movement and international community has stood steadfast in their condemnation of the war and call for peace.

“As we enter day eight of hostilities in Ukraine, we urge leaders on all sides to show restraint, diplomacy and urgently de-escalate the conflict to minimise the loss of innocent lives,” said ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair Paddy Crumlin.

Workers around the world are defiant in opposition to Russia’s invasion including thousands of dock workers showing solidarity with the people of the Ukraine and contempt for Putin’s aggression.”

In the United Kingdom, ITF Dockers’ affiliate Unite the Union announced late last week that its dockers members would refuse to load and unload Russian-owned or controlled vessels in British ports.

“Unite proactively sought UK-wide action from government to ban Russian vessels from docking in our ports,” Unite Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner said. On Monday UK’s Transport Secretary prohibited Russian flagged, registered, owned or chartered vessels entry into UK ports.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union of Canada (ILWU Canada), also wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for a UK-style ban. Yesterday the Transport Canada announced they will have a ban in place this week.

“Our workers stand firmly with workers worldwide. They demand that Canada immediately choke off any trade that finances this brutal Russian regime and its aggression,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, ITF affiliates Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) joined forces this week to hand letters of protest to the captains of visiting Russian-flagged and owned vessels in the country’s ports. RMTU General Secretary, Wayne Butson, said it was important to note that any protest was not directed at Russian crews, but against the aggression and decisions of President Putin.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has also written to the Australian Prime Minister issuing an urgent call for meaningful steps be taken to place pressure upon Russia’s economic, social, and strategic interests across the Asia Pacific region.

Crumlin, who is National Secretary of the MUA called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “join other governments around the world in refusing to provide economic succour to the Putin regime.” 

Marine Transport Workers' Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU) Chairman, Oleg Grygoriuk, said “We are thankful to brothers and sisters in the ITF Dockers’ family for their actions and support. This growing movement of solidarity brings us the confidence to keep fighting this outrageous invasion from Putin. We will prevail.”

Reuters reports that the Port of Mariupol in the south of Ukraine has been under constant Russian artillery assault for almost a week. Ukraine’s Maritime Administration has said that all Ukrainian ports will remain closed until Russia’s invasion ends.

“As in any war, dockers and other transport workers find themselves on the front line, despite the enormous risks to keep the country moving,” said Crumlin. “We are witnessing indiscriminate attacks on civilian and commercial infrastructure by the Russian forces. The situation is dire. Our hearts go out to the people of the Ukraine. We condemned this war and continue to call on all parties to seek peaceful solutions immediately.”

The headline of this article was edited in September 2023 to reflect the content of the article.

About the ITF Dockers’ Section: The ITF Dockers’ Section is made up of 229 affiliated unions, representing almost half a million dockworkers across every region of the globe. Along with the seafarers and river workers, dockers were some of the first workers to come together to form the ITF. ITF Dockers have a bastion of international solidarity ever since.

About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation of transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions and workers’ networks from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice of the almost-20 million women and men who move the world.