Monday, November 22, 2010

Indian And Sri Lankan Maritime Unions Target Flags Of Convenience

Representatives Meet 'Stiff Resistance' as Union Group Mourn Campaigner
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – SRI LANKA – Today saw seafarers and dock workers unions launch a week of industrial action to protest against the use of ‘flags of convenience’ (FOC). Union activists accompanied by representatives of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) launched an investigation of ships, crew terms of employment, and working and living conditions on board FOC ships which they say are notorious for employing seafarers under exploitative contracts.

The investigation will continue until the 26th November and today twenty four mercantile freight vessels carrying a range of cargo were inspected by union teams today in various Indian ports and Colombo. Several vessels were approached with varying results. This year’s week of action is specially targeted at ships owned and or operated by companies in the UAE, an area which the unions say have no culture or respect for trade unions and employ seafarers on very exploitative terms and conditions. The ITF say the Emirates countries are known to evade legal or social responsibilities with more impunity than other FOC owners.

As a result of the action negotiations are moving toward, or have resulted in, the signing of ITF approved agreements. In at least one case however the unions say teams were met with stiff resistance from the Captain who refused to divulge any information about the crew wage and employment contracts on board the company’s ships.

Today also saw the ITF mourning a stalwart in the cause of a campaigner in whose name hospitals and training academies have been dedicated. Captain Gregorio Oca, Chairman of Amosup (Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines)and winner of this year’s Lloyds List Seafarer of the Year award has passed away this week, aged 83, and in tribute ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said:

“Greg was a tireless leader of Amosup and a lot of what that union has built and achieved can be laid at his door. I had the pleasure of knowing and working with him for nearly three decades and can unhesitatingly say that he was a warm and vibrant personality as well as a great campaigner and leader. He will be hugely missed by all of us.”

Photo: Captain Gregorio Oca