ITF: COVID-19 Cannot be Used to Lower Wages for Ferry Workers

file photo
file photo

By The Maritime Executive 04-30-2020 07:44:02

The ITF says that COVID-19 cannot be used as an excuse to lower the wage and working conditions of seafarers.

Despite the vital role that seafarers play in trade, some companies are seeking to use the pandemic to undermine national standards in the industry, including replacing existing crews with seafarers on international terms and conditions that are substantially lower than national conditions, says the ITF. 

“The pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for shipowners, managers or crewing agencies to dismiss their obligation to protect local jobs, local conditions or health, safety and economic standards in an industry for any work – especially for key workers including seafarers. Regardless of the nationality of a seafarer, they deserve the national terms and conditions applicable in national trade.”

Multiple ferry companies have laid off seafarers, and forced them to choose between taking unpaid leave or being furloughed. This is putting a serious economic strain on the seafarers and their livelihoods. “Further, companies are using the pandemic to undermine long existing collective bargaining agreements," says the ITF. “This is totally unacceptable.” 

James Given, president of Seafarers International Union of Canada and chair of the ITF Cabotage Taskforce, said: “National Governments must play a necessary role in ensuring market downturns due to COVID-19 do not turn into unfair redundancies for seafarers or undercut current wages. Now more than ever, critical trade routes that deliver essential supplies should be crewed with national seafarers. To use this pandemic as an opportunity to further erode conditions on ferry routes is opportunism at its worst.”

Companies who receive government funds have an obligation to ensure jobs for national seafarers since those funds are taxpayers’ money, he says. Further, national governments must place conditions on employers who receive public funds that they must protect the wages of furloughed seafarers, including the preservation of existing and pre-existing terms and conditions of employment.