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Issue #1532      25 January 2012

“The seafarers’ bill of rights”

In a landmark day for local seafarers, Australia has now lodged its ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention with the International Labour Organisation in Geneva.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) national secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) president Paddy Crumlin witnessed the passage of what it commonly termed the seafarers’ bill of rights last month.

The Australian permanent representative to the ILO, Greg Vines, lodged the documents with the ILO on December 24, 2011, making it the 22nd nation to ratify.

This means Australia is among the 30 countries required to ratify the laws to ensure the MLC comes into force globally by 2012-13. Mr Crumlin said the coming into force of the Maritime Labour Convention will be an outstanding achievement in international relations and will support the future of the global shipping industry.

“The Maritime Labour Convention ensures that seafarers have their human and labour rights recognised alongside existing standards of safety, security and crew standards,” Mr Crumlin said. “By lifting international minimum standards, the MLC promotes fair and decent work, with more than half the world’s seafarers now covered by ratifying nations.”

The MLC sets standards for:

  • minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship;
  • conditions of employment;
  • accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering;
  • health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection;
  • compliance and enforcement.

“As the largest island continent on earth, Australia’s economic future is inextricably linked to safe and productive shipping,” Mr Vines said.

“It is in our environmental and economic interest to ensure that ships that travel through the region are safe, secure and crewed by seafarers that are decently treated, fairly paid and well trained.

“In ratifying the MLC, Australia reaffirms its longstanding commitment to ensuring decent working conditions for the world’s 1.2 million seafarers that work in this fundamental and truly global industry.”

Although the Convention will target the sub-standard labour conditions on many international ships, it will also provide a valuable boost to Australian shipping and complements Australian shipping reform.

Mr Crumlin also highlighted the importance of the MLC in fighting the ITF’s Flag of Convenience campaign.

“The convention will address the worst features of the FOC system by codifying international safety standards, human rights, trade union rights and labour standards,” Mr Crumlin said.  

Next article – ABCC’s “action” too little, too late

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