Friday, February 5, 2010

Japanese Shipping Line Lock Horns With Union

Dowa Lines Sue Japanese Seaman’s Union
Shipping News Feature

JAPAN – Tomorrow will see a rally of dockworkers and seafarers outside the offices of Dowa Line who operate a non union policy, unlike the majority of the country’s maritime employers. According to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), who represent 650 unions in 148 countries, Dowa run a fleet of 24 bulk freight and cargo vessels entirely crewed by Filipino staff and they have resisted all efforts at negotiation and now initiated litigation against the national union.

Last September the All-Japan Seaman’s Union (JSU) held a rally outside the companies Tokyo HQ calling for the company to adopt improved working conditions. Tomorrow will see protests at the companies policies staged simultaneously in the Caribbean, a traditional call for the company’s vessels, whilst the ITF had their US representatives petition the Japanese Consulate in Oregon stressing that 85% of Japanese lines adopted a fair employment policy and that US unions traditionally held a hostile view of companies who use labour unprotected by reasonable employment legislation.

The unions say they have tried to engage the company in a dialogue for the past eighteen months and the company response is the pending Court action. The line’s vessels are mostly Panamanian flagged and are managed by Hiong Guan Navegacion Co Ltd, a company registered at the same address as Dowa in Japan. This company, along with Dowa Line (America), were named in a major oil spillage incident in Tampa Bay in 1993 in which over 350,000 gallons of oil and fuel were spilt or burnt and again in November 2008 the company pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful discharge of oily waste and falsification of the record book on the vessel Balsa 62. After this Hiong Guan agreed to pay a US$1.75 million fine and to implement a detailed environmental compliance plan which means that their whole fleet have to be strictly monitored for a period of 3 years.

The unions are seeking an agreement broadly in line with others which are employed by shipping groups in the region. This means not working more than nine months continually without a break for leave, a basic working week with guaranteed overtime and extra pay for additional overtime, minimum rest periods and benefits for their families in the event of sickness, injury or death whilst employed.