Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Union Spells Out the Case for Pensions in the Maritime Labour Convention

Representatives Say Workers at Sea Deserve the Same Rights as Shore Based Staff
Shipping News Feature

UK – SWITZERLAND – WORLDWIDE – With major changes being made to pension provision for all employees being made in the UK and some other countries the matter of financial provision for seafarers is to be raised by the Nautilus International trade union at a forthcoming meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with the intention of seeing a firm commitment to including pension rights within any future revision of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

Nautilus officials are joining maritime nations and representatives from around the world, meeting in Geneva this week to consider amendments to the MLC including the provision of financial protection against the abandonment of seafarers and compensation following death or injury at work. Under the latest legislation shore based UK employers will have to offer most categories of workers the chance to sign up to a pension scheme to which both parties will contribute and which will be moveable should the worker change jobs.

At the forthcoming meeting the Union will present the findings of its recent membership survey about pension provision for seafarers which showed that many seafarers are not able to plan for retirement. Whilst more than 60% said that saving for retirement was a priority, the same percentage was not in a company pension scheme. The survey, based on a questionnaire by the ILO, also found that the majority of respondents would support the creation of a supplemental pension plan for seafarers and over 80% were likely to contribute to it. Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson, commented:

“The MLC finally came into force on 20 August 2013, the next stage is to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the Convention and also to consider whether the Convention itself can be further improved to cover more areas of seafarers’ employment. The lack of pension provision for members is something that Nautilus has been aware of for many years; a previous survey found that the numbers paying into a pension plan had fallen to 75% in 2010.

“This latest survey also highlights that companies which contribute to pension schemes for their shore-based staff are not doing so for sea-going staff, thereby suggesting that the people who carrying out much of their core business are not as important. Nautilus is keen to be a part of this debate and I am grateful to all members who took part in the survey. I intend ensure that the ILO takes the views of British, Dutch and Swiss seafarers into account in any decisions to revise the MLC in the future.”

Nautilus represents around 24,000 maritime professionals including ship masters and officers, numerous branches of shipping industry personnel and seafarers in the oil and gas industry as well as shore-based staff. The Geneva meeting will also discuss the awful situation which seafarers often find themselves in when their employers run into financial difficulties and will raise cases such as that of the B Ladybug (video here) which has languished with its crew firstly off the Algerian coast and now lies off Malta with no sign of relief from any quarter.

Photo: Officers undergoing instruction on an ECDIS training course.