25 September 2013 – A high level trade union delegation from several countries will gather in the small Swiss town of Châtel-St-Denis tomorrow, 26 September, in order to question the behaviour of a global company headquartered there. They are visiting Switzerland to press home demands that offshore pipeline installation and subsea construction company Allseas Group SA abides by its and Switzerland’s obligations under international conventions and recognises the union rights of those working for it.
The union leaders will gather from 10:30 at the Place du Grand-Clos, Châtel-St-Denis before moving on to the company’s headquarters (Route de Pra de Plan 18, 1618 Châtel-Saint-Denis) at 11:00. At 11:30 they will deliver a letter of protest to the office.
The letter, signed by ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) offshore taskforce group chair Norrie McVicar (who will be available for interview at tomorrow’s event), explains the unions’ case. It states:
As you will be aware, affiliates of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have been writing to your company for over 10 years seeking dialogue with you on the question of union representation for the respective members of our unions. Unfortunately, for the mariners employed by Allseas, the response to the ITF affiliates over the years has been negative.
We very much hope that following the formal adoption of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) on 20 August 2013 – which was developed at the ILO in Geneva and already ratified by countries accounting for 75 per cent of the world merchant fleet – the company will now reconsider its position.
We are sure you are aware that the MLC has been produced with the aim of becoming the ‘fourth pillar’ of global maritime regulation, alongside existing international conventions on safety at sea, marine pollution, and seafarer training and certification. It aims to promote decent living and working conditions in the shipping industry, and to prevent exploitation and unfair competition. It also upholds the principles of freedom of association and the rights to fair terms of employment.
We believe that the MLC, which is also known as the ‘Bill of Rights for Seafarers’, will deliver significant benefits to the international shipping industry and will also be a valuable tool in the area of on-board health and safety. It supports the creation of elected safety committee representatives, and the consequent process of dialogue and workforce involvement should contribute to improved safety processes, helping to reduce the risk of offshore disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the USA.
There has been an unprecedented level of international support for the implementation of the MLC by governments, employers and trade unions. In the true spirit of tripartism, we urge Allseas (which is based in Switzerland, the home of the ILO) to review its values and join with us and the international maritime community to implement this new bill of rights for seafarers in its fullest form.
The delegation will be made up of representatives of international trade unions including: IndustriALL global union (headquartered in Switzerland); Nautilus International (from the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland); the UK’s RMT (The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers); France’s CFDT; Belgium’s ACV-Transcom; Germany’s ver.di union; the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA); the Maritime Union of New Zealand (Munz); Norway’s Industri Energi; Indonesia’s KPI (Kesatuan Pelaut Indonesia) – among others. They will be assisted by the Swiss cantonal trade union organisation the USFR/FRGB (Union syndicale fribourgeoise/Freiburger Gewerkschaftsbund).
This event will be mirrored in India, where a demonstration will be held at the company’s offices in Mumbai, India, on the same day. In Perth, Australia, trade unionists from the MUA will deliver a letter of protest to the company office there, while in the USA, members of the SIU (Seafarers International Union) will be taking a letter to the company’s Houston office.
Meanwhile the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union will be organising a week of action examining offshore vessels working on the Norwegian continental shelf.
For more about the campaign for union rights at Allseas see:www.unionsatallseas.org