Joint open letter – Transport heads call on world leaders to secure global supply chains

Labor shortages and pandemic-related restrictions on trade have pushed several unions representing workers from across maritime, aviation and trucking from around the world to warn of a “global transport systems collapse”.

In an open letter published last September, 29th, 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 making an urgent plea to the world’s heads of government to ensure the free movement of transport workers and to end travel bans and other restrictions.

The collective industries account for more than $20 trillion of world trade annually, and represent 65 million global transport workers, and over 3.5 million road freight and airline companies, as well as more than 80% of the world merchant shipping fleet.

The inability to address key issues has led to “unprecedented disruptions and global delays and shortages on essential goods,” the group of collective industries said, adding that “the delays look set to worsen ahead of Christmas and continue into 2022.”

The group of unions said “we have all continued to keep global trade flowing throughout the pandemic, but it has taken a human toll. At the peak of the crew change crisis 400,000 seafarers were unable to leave their ships, with some seafarers working for as long as 18 months over their initial contracts. Flights have been restricted and aviation workers have faced the inconsistency of border, travel, restrictions, and vaccine restrictions/requirements. Additional and systemic stopping at road borders has meant truck drivers have been forced to wait, sometimes weeks, before being able to complete their journeys and return home.”

After almost two years of strain on transport workers, global supply chains are beginning to buckle and transport heads are calling to take “decisive and coordinated action to resolve the crisis”.

Specially, The collective industries ask that “transport workers are given priority to receive WHO recognised vaccines and heads of government work together to create globally harmonised, digital, mutually recognised vaccination certificate and processes for demonstrating health credentials (including vaccination status and COVID-19 test results), which are paramount to ensure transport workers can cross international borders.”

The group also call on the WHO to take their message to health ministries. “Despite early engagement at the outset of the pandemic and issuance of guidance, health and transport ministries have not utilised it, resulting in the situation we face today. We need the WHO and governments to work together to ensure this guidance is accepted and followed.”

“The impact of nearly two years’ worth of strain, placed particularly upon maritime and road transport workers, but also impacting air crews, is now being seen. Their continued mistreatment is adding pressure on an already crumbling global supply chain. We are witnessing unprecedented disruptions and global delays and shortages on essential goods including electronics, food, fuel and medical supplies. Consumer demand is rising and the delays look set to worsen ahead of Christmas and continue into 2022.”

It is of great concern that we are also seeing shortages of workers and expect more to leave the industries as a result of the poor treatment they have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat.

In their open letter Wednesday, the group requested a meeting with the WHO and the International Labor Organization.

“In view of the vital role that transport workers have played during the pandemic and continue to play during the ongoing supply chain crisis, we request, as a matter of urgency, a meeting with WHO and the ILO at the highest level to identify solutions before global transport systems collapse.”