How to Keep Jobs for Ratings? Trade Unions Have a Solution

(left) Boris Babin, chairman UIMTU; Maksim Sliusarevskiy, chairman UMTUF; Oleg Chechelnitskiy, chairman WTWSUFU
(left) Boris Babin, chairman UIMTU; Maksim Sliusarevskiy, chairman UMTUF; Oleg Chechelnitskiy, chairman WTWSUFU

On 9 February, 2017,the heads of the Ukrainian Marine Trade Unions’ Federation (UMTUF), Ukrainian Independent Maritime Trade Union (UIMTU) and Water Transport Workers and Seafarers Unions Federation of Ukraine (WTWSUFU) gathered representatives from crewing companies, regional authorities, mass media and other stakeholders for the presentation of the Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions for a new collective bargaining agreement aimed at protecting jobs for Ukrainian ratings.

The event was conducted by the UMTUF chairman, Maksim Sliusarevskiy, WTWSUFU chairman, Oleg Chechelnitskiy and the UIMTU chairman, Boris Babin. The speakers stated that due to the global economic crisis, shipowners are forced to recruit ratings from India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries that offer wages of USD 1,100. As a result, Ukrainian ratings lose their jobs despite the fact that many of them are willing to take such offers. This is because of the special features of the local labour market.

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presentation of the Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions

In order to avoid risks of detention of ships in ports, shipowners prefer to have their ships covered by a collective bargaining agreement with one of the ITF-affiliated trade unions. Hence, seafarers employed on the given ship become members of such a trade union against their wishes. There is one trade union of this kind in Ukraine – Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU). According to the founders of the Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions, MTWTU takes “excessive” advantages for its own benefits, and does not always act for the benefit of the seafarers.

ITF collective bargaining agreements provide for wages of USD 1,800 for ratings. Representatives of shipowners present at the event stated that they had wanted to review this amount for many years. If the minimum wages specified in a collective bargaining agreement do not meet market conditions, then the collective bargaining agreement does not protect seafarers, but on the contrary, contributes to the loss of jobs. In the course of the discussion held at the presentation of the Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions, it turned out that the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreements offered by the MTWTU vary depending on the company: in some companies, minimum wages for ratings are USD 1,350; in others, USD 1,800, despite the fact that as a result of these practices, crewing agencies lose out on opportunities to recruit Ukrainian ratings.

(left) Capt. Vladislav Surkov, Managing Director of Univis; Capt. Igor Safin, Director of V.Ships (Ukraine)

Members of the Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions have developed a new collective bargaining agreement that meets the requirements of MLC 2006 and national laws. Minimum wages for ratings are set at the level recommended by the International Labour Organization (USD 1,085).

According to the UMTUF chairman, Maksim Sliusarevskiy, this document does not in any way prevent seafarers from getting higher-paid jobs. If they have adequate work experience and are fairly fluent in English, they can find jobs with higher wages than those specified by the ITF (USD 1,800). The new CBA is a framework agreement, so it permits a trade union and a shipowner to make certain amendments as long as they arein line with the requirements of the MLC 2006, ILO recommendations and Ukrainian laws. Trade unions believe that thanks to this, an entire category of Ukrainian seafarers, consisting of young specialists without any work experience, older, more experienced seamen able and willing to work at sea and also officers-to-be in need of sea-going experience, will get jobs.

The initiative by the Ukrainian National Platform of Maritime Trade Unions has generated interest among directors of such companies as V.Ships (Ukraine), MSC Crewing Services, Columbia Shipmanagement Ukraine and Univis. Representatives of the Odessa regional authorities have also approved of this innovation suggested by the trade unions and declared their determination to communicate and to cooperate on this matter.