Global transport chiefs urge UN to end humanitarian crisis for supply chain workers

Global road, air and sea organizations and unions have on September 29 called on the world’s heads of government gathering at the UN General Assembly to end a ‘global humanitarian and supply chain crisis.’

In an open letter published on the day of UNGA’s General Debate in New York, IRU, the International Road Transport Union, IATA, the International Air Transport Association, ICS, the International Chamber of Shipping, and ITF, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, made an urgent plea to the world’s heads of government to restore freedom of movement to transport workers.

Transport workers 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, some 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 requirements. 

Additional, systemic and unpredictable controls at road borders have meant truck drivers have been forced to wait, sometimes in their thousands and for weeks in unsanitary situations without proper facilities, before being able to complete their journeys and return home.

Global supply chains are beginning to buckle as two years’ worth of strain on transport workers take their toll. Transport heads warned that states have failed to listen or take the decisive and coordinated action, and called on heads of government to end the blame-shifting within and between governments and resolve this crisis before the looming holiday season again increases freight demand, further pressuring supply chains.

The trade bodies represent more than US$20 trillion of world trade annually, 65 million global transport workers, more than 3.5 million road freight and airline companies and more than 80% of the world merchant shipping fleet.

The letter calls for:

  • Transport workers to be given priority to receive WHO recognized vaccines.
  • The creation of a standardized process for demonstrating health credentials.
  • The WHO and ILO to raise these issues at the UN General Assembly and with national governments.

All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers, and expect more to leave as a result of the poor treatment millions have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat.

Throughout the pandemic, transport ministries have not been able to work with health ministries to improve the way transport workers are being treated by travel restrictions. Unless heads of government enact change, the humanitarian and supply chain crisis will remain indefinitely, causing more hardship.

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