Governments of the ECLAC region have promulgated labour regimes which support port workers' desire for stable wages and job security, isolate them from market signals and create cargo-handling monopolies. The advent of a global economy, the introduction of export-led growth policies, the acquisition of advanced cargo-handling equipment and electronic information systems, and the participation of private interests in the offer of port services permit enterprises to compare, purchase and employ raw materials, labour and service inputs worldwide, and have transformed the traditional concept of competition between comparable finished goods into input-to-final product competition. Port labour is only one of the inputs in the distribution process and must be organized on a commercial basis in order to make possible competition with other ports in the world. The free play of market mechanisms offers an external standard to control the size of the workforce, harmonize the desires of dockworkers and maritime employers, and compel each to progressively improve productivity, reduce costs, innovate and make needed investments.
Reforms of port labour regimes should remove regulatory impediments to the free play of market mechanisms; decentralize and deregulate the labour market; utilize antimonopoly laws which are applicable to maritime employers and labour unions to avoid misuses of market mechanisms; eliminate direct government participation in port operations, collective negotiations and informal dispute resolution, and promote opportunity-oriented social equity in the award of worker benefits. With a commercial port labour regime, maritime transport employers would come to recognize that their commercial objectives and the social goals of port labour are intertwined, and cannot be attained independently.