An open letter from four industry associations representing workers along the supply chain and their interests was addressed not only to the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labor Organization (ILO), but even to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. We briefly trace what is being demanded of governments on a global scale in the face of increasingly visible symptoms of crisis in the logistics sector.
Even U.S. late-night formats such as comedian Stephen Colbert's recently addressed the ever-widening supply chain (in)stability more frequently. In the CBS program produced in New York City, for example, the jokes were given the rubric title "Cargo Unchained" by "The Late Show" host, based on a well-known Quentin Tarantino film.
The metropolis on the Hudson River, or more precisely the UN General Assembly sitting there, as well as the WHO and ILO organizations, had previously become the addressees of an open letter on the same subject, but in a self-evidently more unequally concerned tone. Four important industry associations - the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and the International Road Transport Union (IRU) - were among the initiators of the letter and spoke of a humanitarian crisis.
In concrete terms, this is about the omnipresent burden on the workers behind the supply chains, whose efforts even before, but especially since, the start of the Corona pandemic have ensured the (intermediate) storage, handling and not least the transport of raw materials, semi-finished materials and end products. However, they are increasingly reaching their limits, and existing job conditions and the aging of the population are also causing significant losses in the workforce.
Voice of millions of employees
According to media reports, IATA, ICS, ITF and IRU speak for 65 million employees in 3.5 million companies in the transport sector. Many millions more work in the industry or in other areas such as warehouse logistics and online commerce, which has been heavily fueled by the pandemic. The demands carry corresponding weight, combined with the already noticeable effects of the lack of transport capacity on the economy. After all, society as a whole cannot afford to continue to alienate the existing workforce and scare off potential new entrants in these occupational fields.
Key points for improving the situation
From the demands of the industry associations and other stakeholders, a number of key starting points can be identified that could improve the situation. These include:
- Appropriate pay
- Improved conditions during work, but also for breaks
- Stricter monitoring of existing legal regulations to empower workers
- Access to the COVID-19 vaccine even away from the nations with the strongest economies.
Depending on the mode of transport, the profile of demands naturally differentiates. Train drivers, seafarers, pilots or truck drivers face different problems, but they are united by the desire to change the status quo.
Important soft positions needed
Existing governments around the world, as well as new ones that are being formed, as can be seen in Germany at the moment, urgently need to address this issue more intensively, aside from the fight against the pandemic. The current situation shows once again that without the performance and resilience of supply chains and the people working in logistics, any economic upswing cannot flourish. Raw materials and finished products must get from the shipper to the recipient, whether by means of intercontinental multimodal transport or very short last-mile delivery, in order to provide the best possible support for the global economy based on the division of labor and, above all, to guarantee security of supply.
The industry will not have experienced a peak season in quarter 4 like this year in the recent past, that much can probably be predicted well before Christmas without exaggeration. With the right measures and incentives, the government, as well as shippers and consumers, who may always underestimate the value of the industry a little, should counteract a collapse of the systems.