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Monday, 26 August 2013 00:00

Seafarers still trail behind without proper rights bill

I've had to write to try to inject some reality into all the trumpeting of this so called "seafarers' bill of rights" the MLC 2006.

The much-hailed "fourth pillar" has only legitimised shipping companies' ability to operate sweatshop ships and engage in people-trafficking, social dumping and general exploitation of seafarers.

In the decade-long process, not one of the people in suits (who incidentally look and sound like they have never worked on a ship or if they did it was probably The Ark), have ever asked me or any seafarer that I know what we thought or aspired to in a fair agreement.

Here are the facts for a worker on a ship:

nAverage weekly working hours stand at 77 hours plus, before overtime.

nDerisory rates of pay, especial for hospitality staff, who are away from their families for nine to 10 months at a time.

nLimited entitlement to shore leave, no access to a union representative, no right to a collective bargaining, no pension and no paid leave or paid bank holidays.

Even with the MLC, I doubt that many if any seafarers will receive holiday pay because companies are prevaricating on this clause. All the great and good in the industry are simply glossing over it.

In 1966 the National Union of Seamen struck to try to bring seafarer terms and conditions in line with other British workers.

Those principles should be the starting point for any MLC agreement.

The race to the bottom for seafarers' terms and conditions will not be halted by the MLC, nor will it stop the high fatigue and stress levels, suicides rate and dysfunctional life of seafarers caused by the neoliberal employment practices of the capitalist ship owners.

Mick Stubbs

Co-Chair, RMT Southampton Shipping

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