IWW - Nevidni delavci sveta

A Report to the State Labor Inspection by the Union of Subcontracting Workers (SIPS) of Luka Koper (Port of Koper) on Strike

Sindikat izvajalcev pristaniške dejavnosti (SIPS)

Vojkovo nabrežje

6000 Koper


Parmova ulica 33


Our union is the union of workers, employed by subcontractors of port services (SPPS) in Luka Koper. We have approximately 250 members.

In the port of Koper the unloading and reloading is performed by crane operators and supervisors, but also by workers, employed by so called "subcontractors" (as the management calls them). There are approximately 40 subcontractors, organized as "independent entrepreneurs" (samostojni podjetniki) or "companies with limited responsibility" (družbe z omejeno odgovornostjo). Those subcontractors employ approximately 550 workers that work in unloading and reloading of goods from the ships.

Our union is an urgent response to inhuman and horrifying working conditions that we, the subcontracting workers, have to endure since several years. Let us briefly sum up only the most common and most urgent breaches of the work legislation:

We don’t have regular working time, so we have to be at the disposal of the employer 24 hours per day, seven days in a week, for the whole month during the entire year. All the time. We don’t have a working schedule, we have to be available "on demand". We have to respond to the call of the employer within one hour. When we arrive to work we don’t know when the work will be over. On quite regular basis we are obliged to make several shifts in a row, also 4 shifts at once, which makes 32 continuous working hours. Sometimes our work lasts for 10 consequent shifts, so that we work continuously for 3 to 4 days. We have to note at this point that the working hours of individual workers are evidenced in detail by entrance cards (the time of the entrance and exit of the worker), but also by port workers on individual work places. The total number of working hours of an individual worker amounts to 250 per month, in accordance with the needs of the port, but often we can make up to 300 or even 350 hours per month.

The same "flexibility", valid for the "regular working time", is applied also to the payment of the work done. Work contracts, usually printed on predefined forms, are incomplete, since they do not include provisions on additional payments (dodatki). This means that overtime work is payed the same as regular work, from 2,5 to 4 Euro per hour. Employers do not pay us transport expenses and our food expenses are "covered" with vouchers for the port canteen (in the value of 3 to 4 Euro). On our pay roll our income is accounted in the following manner: salary is shown as the prescribed minimum wage in regular working hours and the payment for overtime work is presented as transport expenses (even if the worker lives only 200 meters from the port), as additional payment for separate household and food expenses (in the maximum amount).

We believe that the work in the port through subcontractors is illegal. Namely, the working process is under exclusive supervision and leadership of the workers of Luka Koper. Our employer is not in charge of our arrival to work and during the work we have no further contact with him, even if our work place changes.

We are constantly exposed to mobbing from the side of our employers but also from the workers, employed directly by Luka Koper. Any expression of discontent or resistance, even to illegal orders, is sanctioned with temporary or permanent removal from the work place (they force us to quit). All this circumstances force the workers into obedience, especially those workers that have a temporary work contract or temporary work permit. This is an advantage of employers, that they thoroughly exploit.

Due to the described circumstances it was not realistic to expect that we would be able to establish a worker’s union. But we have managed to do it this year. Nevertheless the management of the port was constantly informed about our problems, since it received - together with the labor inspectorate in Koper - regular reports on violations of labor legislation from the Union of Crane Operators (Sindikat žerjavistov). Their only response was silence or incapability to find any irregularities if they would make an inspection. The management of the port does not react to numerous calls (ore even strike demands) of the Union of crane operators regarding our situation. They continue to push their heads in the sand by claiming that their hands are tied since we are supposedly not employed by them..

You have been probably already informed through the media that the vast majority of subcontracting workers has - parallel to the strike of crane operators that started on July 29th - spontaneously stopped working and gathered in front of the administrative building of the port, where we continue to persist without interruption the fifth day in a row. Workers are tired of the arrogance of the state firm Luka Koper, of inspections and other state bodies and they are fed up. We have informed also the labor inspection in Koper about the situation.

We turn to you since we have no reason to believe, that someone in Koper will reply to our grievances. But we demand that state bodies will not allow such grave breaches of the basic human rights in a country, that is a member of the European union. Namely, this kind of conditions were outdated even in the 19th century.

Koper, 2. 8. 2011