Able Seafarers Win 4% Minimum Wage Increase in New Three-Year Deal

seafarer wage increases
Minimum wage for Able Seafarers will increase for the next three and a half years (file photo)

Published May 18, 2022 5:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

Shipowners and the maritime labor unions reached a new three-year wage agreement providing yearly minimum wage increases creating what the unions are calling a “safety net” deal for seafarers. The agreement comes after what the unions cite as a particularly challenging period for seafarers who faced extended contracts, long periods away from family, and travel restrictions during the pandemic, as well as the impact of global inflation. 

The wage agreement between the two sides is part of the only formally recognized global minimum wage for a sector. The maritime industry adopted the global minimum wage agreement in 1958. The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) oversees the negotiations between shipowners and seafarers’ unions from across the world. The International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation coordinated the talks representing the seafarers.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Able Seafarers will receive a nearly four percent wage increase spread over the next three and a half years. The agreement applies universally to the widely recognized rating grade. According to the unions, it is contributing to decent work and employment for seafarers, to support themselves and their families.

“This new deal is a win-win for both shipowners and seafarers,” said Charles Darr of the Swiss Shipowners’ Association and speaking on behalf of the shipowners. “It strikes a balance between rewarding seafarers for their incredible contributions to the global economy and ensures, at the same time, that shipping companies are able to remain sustainable and commercially viable, in light of the many challenges we are currently facing and those that lie ahead.”

The minimum wage, as per an agreement from the prior negotiations, will rise to $648 on July 1, 2022. The new structure established during the current negotiations is for a three-year deal with annual wage increases starting January 1, 2023, and at the first of the year for the two subsequent years. The minimum wage rises to $658 for 2023, $666 for 2024, and $673 for 2025.

Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus International, speaking for the seafarers' group said, “Today’s agreement recognizes the huge sacrifices and professionalism of the men and women working at sea and is a testament to the collective milestones the social partnership between seafarers and shipowners have historically achieved. Especially over the past few years.”

The wage agreement is the latest in a series of efforts by the unions designed to improve the working and living conditions for seafarers. Earlier this week, the ITF reported that the delegates meeting to review the Maritime Labor Convention had agreed to several additions, including creating a right for increased connectivity to the internet to improve communications for seafarers. Critics said it fell short of guarantying free, universal access and the talks also failed to improve the repatriation clauses in the MLC. Other changes included commitments for improved access to free drinking water and quality food as well as providing properly-fitting personal protective equipment on board.