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ILO ADOPTS VACCINATION PROPOSAL BUT FAILS TO AGREE ON SEAFARER PAY

ILO ADOPTS VACCINATION PROPOSAL BUT FAILS TO AGREE ON SEAFARER PAY

Thursday, April 29, 2021 

A resolution for a global seafarers vaccination program proposed by the Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry (SDM) has been officially adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The vaccination resolution calls for a mapping exercise to identify the number of vaccines required for seafarers ashore at seafarer supplying countries. It builds upon the proposal for a global seafarers vaccination program presented by Cyprus earlier this year to the IMO), ICS and EU.

Vassilios Demetriades, Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister, said: “The challenge of facilitating crew changes has had a significant impact on the mental and physical well-being of seafarers and safety of vessels over the past year. Cyprus has always been dedicated to social responsibility and taking a proactive approach to the global challenges faced by shipping. We were determined to find a realistic approach to a global seafarer vaccination program and are extremely pleased to see our draft resolution accepted by the ILO. I am encouraged by the adoption of this Resolution and my next step is to engage in active conversations with the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation to define the way forward and put this plan into action."

Meanwhile, Nautilus International has condemned the refusal by shipowners at the ILO to approve a standard pay uplift for seafarers as "disgraceful". Seafarers' unions decided to shut down pay discussions after shipowners represented by ICS demanded that the industry ditch the established practice of using  ILO minimum wage calculations before they would approve any pay rise. The ILO Minimum Wage is a long-established mechanism which ensures that pay is tied to inflation, thus maintaining purchasing power. The proposed 2021 adjustment is US$1.40 per day above the rate agreed in 2018, which Nautilus International says "represents less than the price of a cup of coffee".

According to Nautilus, the ICS offer comes at a time when international shipping rates are at all-time highs and most shipowners have performed well financially during the Covid-19 pandemic, even as seafarers have battled with exhaustion and overwork during the crew change crisis.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson (pictured), Seafarers Group spokesperson at ILO, said: "For only the second time in the long history of these negotiations the shipowners and the seafarers have failed to agree a revised minimum wage for seafarers. Seafarers are heroes of the pandemic. They have sacrificed time and again. They have literally risked their lives so that these companies could survive Covid-19 and its economic effects."

Dickinson felt that the effective cut in pay was likely to further accelerate an industry labour shortage. "It's hard enough for these companies to recruit seafarers with the crew change issue, I would have thought now would be the time to be investing in your people and making this an industry more attractive to join – not less,' he said.

According to the ICS, the offer represented a 3% increase for seafarers at a time when many workers on land are having pay freezes and losing their jobs.
Natalie Shaw, ICS Director Employment Affairs, said: “Unfortunately the seafarers’ representatives rejected a generous offer from the shipowners in these unprecedented times. We went further than we had anticipated but the offer was still rejected. However, our door is always open.”
ICS added that shipowners remain open to discussing the minimum wage with the unions in an effort to seek an early resolution.

According to the ICS, the offer represented a 3% increase for seafarers at a time when many workers on land are having pay freezes and losing their jobs.

Natalie Shaw, ICS Director Employment Affairs, said: “Unfortunately the seafarers’ representatives rejected a generous offer from the shipowners in these unprecedented times. We went further than we had anticipated but the offer was still rejected. However, our door is always open.”

ICS added that shipowners remain open to discussing the minimum wage with the unions in an effort to seek an early resolution.

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