A group of some of the world’s leading trade organizations representing shipping, air and trucking workers are calling on the world’s heads of government to end a “global humanitarian and supply chain crisis.”
In an open letter released Wednesday, the day of the UN General Assembly General Debate in New York, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) joined the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in urgently calling on the world’s heads of government to restore freedom of movement for transport workers.
Together, these bodies represent more than $20 trillion of world trade annually and 65 million global transport workers, as well as more than 3.5 million trucking companies and airlines, and more than 80% of the world’s merchant shipping fleet.
All transport workers have continued to keep world trade flowing during the pandemic despite the difficulties. At the height of the crew change crisis, some 400,000 seafarers were stranded on their ships, some working up to 18 months over their initial contracts. Aviation workers and truck drivers have faced similar obstacles.
Now, after nearly two years of pressure on transport workers, global supply chains are beginning to falter. Warning that states have failed to listen and take action, transport officials are calling on heads of government to “end the blame game” and take “decisive and coordinated action” to resolve the crisis before the impending vacation season once again increases demand for goods, putting even more pressure on supply chains.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the maritime, road and aviation industries have called loud and clear on governments to ensure the free movement of transport workers and end travel bans and other restrictions that have had a hugely detrimental impact on their welfare and safety,” the letter states. “Transport workers keep the world running and are vital to the free movement of goods, including vaccines and PPE, but governments have continually failed them and their officials take them for granted.”
Specifically, the letter calls for transport workers to be given priority to receive WHO-recognized vaccines; the creation of a standardized process for demonstrating health credentials; and for WHO and ILO to raise these issues at the UN General Assembly and with national governments.
“It is very important that the heads of organizations representing millions of transport workers around the world have called on governments to take urgent action and put an end to restrictions that are putting incredible pressure on workers, their families and the global supply chain. It is a call that can no longer be ignored,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the UN International Labour Organization.
Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General, praised transport workers for their resilience.
“Two of the themes of this year’s General Assembly are human rights and resilience. Given that transport workers have shown indescribable levels of resilience in the face of immense hardship, we call on the UN and heads of state to finally take decisive and coordinated action to resolve this crisis,” said Platten.
“Transport workers have kept the world’s supply chains and people moving despite the neglect of world leaders,” said Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary. “They have worked through border closures, inability to return home, lack of access to healthcare, restrictive quarantine requirements and total uncertainty resulting from government ineptitude. Frankly, they have had enough. It is time for the heads of government to respond to the needs of these workers, or else they will be responsible for the collapse of supply chains, and the needless deaths and suffering of workers and citizens caught up in the crisis. That blood and mayhem will be on their hands.”