Luz Photo Agency

WOMEN DOCK WORKERS IN THE PORT OF PALERMO

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Women dock workers in the port of Palermo
Text and photos: Patrice Terraz/Signatures Their names are Angela, Loredana, Rita, Antonella, or Giuseppina... Their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers were dock workers. They are the first generation of women dockers in the port of Palermo. There are about fifteen of them among around one hundred port workers – a higher percentage than in any other port in the world. They alone have swept aside two supposedly immutable prejudices: - only men work in ports - Sicilian women stay at home. Maritime traffic in the port of Palermo has been gradually slowing over the years. Currently, most maritime transport between Sicily and the north of Italy and Tunisia takes place using vessels known as "ROROs" [roll-on/roll-off], enormous cargo ships full of trucks. The dockers' work mostly consists of connecting and disconnecting these truck and trailer units, which are attached by heavy chains. It's an exhausting job, carried out in teams of ten and often at night. By themselves, or sometimes in twos, the girls have made a place for themselves within the group of dockers, and are just as loudmouthed as the men. They are extremely efficient at manoeuvring the chains and are respected by their colleagues. But their family life isn't easy. They are called up the day before to work the following morning, or in the morning to work the same evening. With such a rhythm, it's difficult to manage their children's schedules. Sometimes an unemployed husband stays at home, or often the grandparents are around to look after the children. The women are between thirty and forty-five years old and have all been working for at least ten years. They earn about one thousand euros a month for between eight and ten days work. In spite of the difficulties, they like their job and wouldn't give it up for anything – this never-ending waltz, day and night, moving in time to the noise of the chains and to bursts of laughter.