Maritime union RMT today welcomed the coming into force of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) tomorrow the 20th of August.
The union believes that this new legislation has the potential to make a genuine difference to the lives of seafarers.
Among the advantages that the MLC offers are:
• The potential to stop blacklisting and charging for jobs by some manning agents;
• The recognition of all crew – including hospitality crew on international cruise ships – as seafarers, who will now all get the same protections;
• Enhanced checks by port state control, including of pay problems such as double book-keeping; and
• The establishment of welfare facilities in ports, and of on-ship safety committees.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that blacklisting and social dumping had blighted the maritime sector for decades and the convention created the possibility to finally turn the tide in favour of seafarers as long as it is rigorously enforced and policed.
“This new legislation must be used to challenge the right of shipowners to exploit workers in their endless pursuit of profit regardless of the human cost it brings, ” he said.
International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) president Paddy Crumlin commented: “The MLC represents a significant leap forward in the global trade union campaign to improve the labour rights and labour standards of seafarers. It is a true watershed in international shipping, which adds the pillar of workers’ rights to existing standards of safety, security and crew standards.”
About the MLC
The MLC is regarded as the fourth pillar of shipping regulation, alongside Solas, Marpol and the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping), and is intended to be strictly enforced by flag states and port state control. It should provide a ‘one stop shop’ for labour standards. This will mean that all seafarers should be able to enjoy comprehensive protection of their fundamental rights, and ensure good employment practice across the industry.
The convention addresses a range of matters, including the obligations of shipping companies with respect to seafarers’ contractual arrangements, the responsibilities of manning agencies, working hours, health and safety, existing ILO maritime standards and accepted good employment practice. Under it, every ship over 500 gross tonnage operating in international waters or between ports of different countries will have to have a Maritime Labour Certificate issued by its flag administration following an inspection. There will also a requirement for ships to complete and maintain on board a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance.
For seafarers the convention sets out the minimum rights that they should expect (although many states that ratify it may have higher standards), and incorporates and builds on 68 existing maritime labour conventions and recommendations, as well as other fundamental principles, to ensure decent working and living conditions.
The MLC establishes the responsibilities of flag states in respect of the certification and implementation process, and forces the involvement of shipowners’ and seafarers’ organisations in the legislative process to incorporate the MLC in national maritime legislation.
It also covers the recruitment process and lays out fundamental information to be inserted in employment contracts and provisions to establish health, social and security. In addition it encourages the establishment of port welfare facilities, regulates working and rest hours, training, medical care and the prevention of accidents.
The convention will provide seafarers with options on how to report breaches of its regulations. It also seeks to strengthen the port state control system and establish a more balanced maritime industry.
The ITF is supporting the MLC’s launch with a range of advice and materials designed to help seafarers understand and apply it. These include a dedicated web area at www.itfseafarers.org/ILOMLC.