Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Threat To RoRo Ferry Crews Reignites Equality Debate

Unions Plan Week of Action to Support Fairer Practices
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – Sixteen years after the horrendous fate of the passenger ferry Estonia which sank in the Baltic, debate still rages as to whether confusion over the language used in mayday calls contributed to the fate of the 852 people who died in the accident. Now international unions have gathered together to point out that European protocols, amended in 2000 as a result of the disaster, have never been adopted and that lives may still be at risk as a result.

These concerns, and those over the fire aboard the Scandinavian Star in 1990 which killed 158 and which cited no common language and a poor health and safety culture as contributory factors, are part of a “Fair Ferries” campaign being launched across Europe this week. There will be a conference tomorrow in Hull at the KC stadium followed by a “week of action “at selected European ferry ports from 27th to 30th September.

The main thrust of the conference, organised by transport workers representatives the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is also to illustrate the inequalities between ferry crews from diverse countries of origin. There has been a tendency to avoid using more expensive EU crews by ferry operators and the ITF cite some striking examples including current disputes with Stena Line and Sea France.

As well as planning the forthcoming week of action, the conference will look at ways to reinforce the ‘social dialogue’ process, with the aim of achieving a level playing field of conditions on intra-EU routes; focus on ‘social dumping’ (undercutting of existing, skilled workforce); and question ferry companies alleged to be carrying out cargo lashing (cargo stowage/fastening) on board by seafarers, rather than by dockers on shore.

Photo:- The ill fated Estonia