Sunday, October 20, 2013

Maritime Employers Meet With Unions to Discuss Pay and Conditions

Two Sides Negotiate in Russia
Shipping News Feature

RUSSIA – WORLDWIDE – This week saw the 10th anniversary meeting of the International Bargaining Forum (IBF), formed in 2003 as a mechanism for collective bargaining between maritime employers and maritime unions over the wages and conditions of employment for seafarers serving on foreign flag ships covered by the ‘Special Agreements’ negotiated by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). The Forum is intended to ensure trouble free industrial relations on the freighters and other vessels concerned.

Maritime employers are represented by the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), the International Shipping Employers' Group (ISEG), which incorporates the International Maritime Managers’ Association of Japan (IMMAJ), the Taiwanese company Evergreen, and the Korean Shipowners' Association. Together they form the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG) which allows maritime employers to present to the union body a coordinated view of employers from across the world. The affiliated maritime unions worldwide are represented in turn by the ITF.

As always, this current meeting, included both central and local negotiations and this method of pay negotiations is hailed as ‘unique’ by the ITF, being they say the only example of international collective bargaining. Speaking at the IBF meetings in St. Petersburg, Russia, the JNG Chairman Mr. Tsutomu Iizuka said:

“The recent financial climate has put tremendous pressure on ship owners and managers to minimise costs and remain viable employers, and on maritime unions to protect the wages and conditions of employment of their members.  Over the last ten years the IBF has demonstrated that frank and robust negotiations between the JNG and ITF result in mutually beneficial agreements. These agreements recognise and reflect the challenges maritime employers face and respect the interests and livelihoods of the seafarers on which the industry depends.”

The meetings between the two sides of the employment sector are a regular occurrence with the next scheduled for Tokyo on 18 – 20 February 2014 and with further negotiations scheduled for 14-16 April 2014 and 3 – 5 June. Speaking in the current meeting Mr. Dave Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers' Section commented:

“The IBF continues to bear testament to the unique and successful relationship enjoyed by the ITF and JNG. Both parties understand the benefits of engaging in fully negotiated agreements between employers and unions. That relationship was sustained during a time of downturn in the industry, to which seafarers responded with moderate and pragmatic aspirations in the field of wage increases. We look forward to the bargaining process continuing to successfully demonstrate the ability of each party to cooperate, to work constructively, and to achieve results for all those we represent.”