Union-busting and dismissals at Madagascar’s main port highlight the struggle facing workers on this impoverished island
François Bia, now a 50-year-old rickshaw driver, began working at the docks in Toamasina on Madagascar’s east coast in 1989. He carried sacks of rice on his back to and from the ships, or lashed containers to the decks using cables and metal turnbuckles. After 23 years, he was still a day labourer, working for no more than a few dollars a shift. In 2012, he joined a union, hoping to improve his pay and conditions, but managers at the port fired him, along with 42 other dockworkers who had joined the same union.
Although union-busting violates national law and international labour standards, the state-owned SMMC, which oversees the handling of non-containerised cargo, has refused to rehire the workers, pay them compensation, or recognise the union.