Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Trade Union Inspectors Gather to Plan Flag of Convenience Strategies

Triennial Meeting Demands Respect for Agreements and Seafarers
Shipping News Feature
PANAMA – WORLDWIDE – Every three years the entire inspectorate network of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is gathered together for a seminar to develop new skills and plan for the delivery of ITF objectives. The inspectors are union officials working in ports all over the world on issues related to the ITF flags of convenience campaign. Their role is to ensure seafarers have decent pay, working conditions and living conditions by carrying out inspections on ships calling in their ports. They also assist with actions to protect seafarers' rights.

This time the meeting of the 118 inspectors, held between 12-16 October, was scheduled for Panama City where Chair of the ITF seafarers’ section, Dave Heindel, explained how the inspectors are viewed by the organisation saying:

“We’re pursuing fairness and justice for seafarers everywhere and in that pursuit inspectors are our soldiers. They have unique access to seafarers and unique knowledge about the challenges involved in a life at sea. Our mission this week is to strengthen the inspectorate further, to facilitate joint working and particularly at this point to build the campaigning capacity of the inspectorate network.”

New inspector Heikki Karla from the Finnish Seafarers’ Union who joined the ITF last year, also summed up the importance of the role of inspectors remarking:

“Ship owners have gone from simple and stable ‘making a profit’ to ‘trying to maximise the growth of profit through cost cutting and so-called optimising.’ It is always the seafarer who pays the price. The only way for seafarers to have decent pay and conditions is through a sound system of collective bargaining, which respects human rights and takes into account the nature of work at sea.

“The problems I see on board underline the need for spreading information and getting the seafarers to demand what belongs to them without fear of losing their jobs. We need to provide the information, support seafarers and make ship owners respect agreements and respect seafarers.”

Photo: Panama was a particularly appropriate place to hold this latest seminar as, just last month, the ITF commissioned a safety study of the Panama Canal.