The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has condemned an offer by a coalition of Ukrainian trade unions to cut minimum wages for the country’s seafarers.
The Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions is publicly offering shipowners the chance to evade the agreed ITF monthly minimum wage for ABs of $1,806, cutting it by $801.
ITF seafarers’ section chair David Heindel explained: “There is no indication that any shipowner has fallen for this offer yet. They will be aware that a union proposing to reduce negotiated conditions for seafarers is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the ITF. Similarly the ITF will consider any shipowner trying to take advantage of this dodgy deal as attempting to attack the hard won and hard earned rights of seafarers – and inviting the consequences.”
The Marine Transport Workers' Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU) is a recognized member union of the ITF. Its vice chairman, Oleg Grigoryuk, said: “Ukrainian seafarers are known worldwide for their skills and hard work. This new outfit’s attempt to undermine their rights and pay is a deeply cynical and distasteful move. Trade unions are meant to defend the rights and conditions of workers, not collude to remove them.”
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “It’s notable that the leader of this appears to be the UMTUF, a union that the ITF had to suspend from membership and whose expulsion has now become increasingly likely.”
The UMTUF, WTSUFU and UIMTU trade unions have collectively founded the Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions. The global economic crisis has forced shipping companies to hire ratings from India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries with a minimum wage of $1,100, says the group. The Ukraine is able to offer a significant amount of skilled ratings ready to work at the same wage. However, the current situation in the local labor market is preventing them from getting a job.
The platform says the Ukraine has only one trade union affiliated with the ITF, which is the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU). Having ignored numerous requests from crewing agencies and shipowners for years, the MTWTU conducts business on unequal terms with different shipping companies, claims the platform.
“As a result, shipowners complain that the minimum wage in collective bargain agreements differs for companies, no matter how eager they are to hire Ukrainian ratings, which means that our seafarers are losing out on working places. The MTWTU has become an artificial monopolist, which has not improved the situation in the labor market,” says the platform in a statement.
The Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions’ new agreement is intended to serve the interests of both shipowners and Ukrainian ratings and permits shipowners and trade unions to make necessary amendments until they are in line with the requirements of the MLC 2006, ILO recommendations and Ukrainian law. The new agreement is fully compatible with international and Ukrainian rules of law, says the platform.
The new agreement was presented to Ukrainian representatives of global shipping companies on February 9. It received considerable interest from such companies as VShips, MSC, Columbia Shipmanagement and Univis, as well as a number of major crewing agencies, says the platform.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.