Dispute halts Aqaba Container Terminal, tear gas used

Amman: Operations at Jordan’s Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) were halted on Monday when a dispute arose between the terminal’s management and workers over a new shift pattern that will reduce employees’ working hours and income.

Management shut down terminal operations at 7am on Monday after workers, encouraged by the General Trade Union for Port and Clearance Workers (GTU), entered the terminal by force and attempted to enforce their old shift system, reports say.

ACT management says this posed a threat to the safety of other workers and compelled management to halt all operations.

Jordan’s gendarmerie forces used tear gas to disperse workers who were trying to enter the terminal on Tuesday morning, a terminal employee told the Jordan Times.

The gendarmerie intervened when Jordanian workers tried to prevent replacement staff brought in from Asia from entering the temrinal. The Asian staff will continue terminal operations while the dispute goes on.

Previously, ACT employees worked 12 hours a day in two shifts, but a new standard eight-hour shift system has been implemented, as per a ruling by the Labour Court on November 10. The court ruling reiterates the terminal’s right to adjust its shift system to meet its business demands, as mandated by the Labour Law of Jordan, ACT told the Jordan Times.

The new shift system will affect terminal workers’ income as working hours will be reduced.

ACT’s CEO, Jeppe Jensen told press all employees involved in the current disruption will receive sanctions in accordance with the company’s internal regulations and the Labour Law. This will include terminations of employee contracts and the sourcing of replacement workers where necessary, he told the national paper.

A spokesman for GTU, Mohammad Matilah, said ACT’s management has refused to talk to employees and negotiate with them to resume work.

This is the third strike at the terminal this year after walkouts in July and October, when workers demanded better pay and benefits. [3/12/14]

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