Beijing international seminar on 2006 Maritime Labour Convention
As the bill of rights for the world’s seafarers, the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention consolidates almost all of the 70 existing ILO maritime labour instruments into a single modern globally applicable legal instrument. On 20 August 2012, the Convention met its requirements for entry into force with ratification by 30 ILO member States responsible for 33% of the world merchant fleet by tonnage, and it became binding on 20 August 2013. The Convention exerts a strong influence over the global shipping industry: it presents unified standards for seafarers’ right to decent work; together with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), it further enriches the international maritime legal framework; and it has fostered a sound atmosphere for exchange and cooperation in the global shipping industry.
China has been actively working towards ratification and full implementation of the Convention. Chinese trade unions, in collaboration with other constituents, have been studying and promoting it with a view to establishing decent work for seafarers. In this connection, in November 2013 the ACFTU invited an International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) delegation led by its President, Padraig Crumlin, to China, and with the ILO co-hosted an international seminar on the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention. Attending the event were 45 domestic and international representatives, including experts and scholars from the ITF, the ILO, the Maritime Safety Administration under the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS), union practitioners from the ACFTU and local branches, as well as representatives of large shipping companies such as COSCO. The seminar generated some lively tripartite discussions on the Convention, its ratification and implementation, better protection of seafarers, international cooperation and more.
ILO and ITF specialists have elaborated on the Convention in terms of minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship, conditions of employment, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care and social security protection, on-board and on-shore complaints procedures, as well as port state and flag state responsibilities, clearly defining the due rights enjoyed by seafarers at large.
The Chinese Seafarers’ and Construction Workers’ Union (CSU), part of the ACFTU, outlined efforts made by Chinese trade unions to protect seafarers’ rights, particularly in promoting the establishment on 23 December 2009 of the National Maritime Tripartite Coordination Mechanism for Labour Relations together with the Ministry of Transport and the China Ship-owners Association, conducting collective bargaining for seafarers at the national level and signing the Collective Agreement for Chinese Seafarers, providing protection for all Chinese seafarers on ships flying the Chinese flag as well as flag of convenience ships with Chinese owners. More efforts will be dedicated to the early ratification of the Convention, awareness-raising and training for seafarers about their rights, and stronger participation in policy-making in order to better protect seafarers.
Representatives of the Maritime Safety Administration and the MOHRSS made presentations on the Chinese Government’s preparations for ratification and following implementation, the legal procedures involved, collaboration among the competent authorities, and compliance with domestic laws, regulations and certification systems vis-à-vis the stipulations of the Convention.
Ship-owners and manning agencies are especially concerned about such issues as the management of overseas-dispatched seafarers, the legislation regulating labour supply, overlapping watchdogs, the alignment of domestic and international instruments, and the grace period for adjusting to the new standards in the Convention.
The meeting was a great success and participants achieved consensus on promoting ratification of the Convention, safeguarding seafarers’ rights and realizing decent work. The ITF showed its appreciation for the work of Chinese trade unions and the strong attention paid to the Convention by the Chinese constituents. In the ITF’s view, the 2006 MLC helps ensure decent work and a level playing field for fairer competition by setting minimum standards, making strict enforcement and proper control all the more vital.
ITF Acting General Secretary Stephen Cotton expressed a hope for deeper dialogue and mutual understanding with Chinese trade unions, to enhance capacity building and jointly tackle challenges in the maritime and wider transport industry. Official invitations were issued to the ACFTU to attend the First Special Tripartite Maritime meeting on 7-11 April 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, and the ITF Congress in August 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The ACFTU leadership also expressed its eagerness to strengthen mutual exchange and dialogue with the ITF through various mechanisms, such as regular mutual visits, participation in each other’s international events, technical exchanges at industry level, and multi-layered experience sharing of union work. Building on the foundations of this very productive encounter, the ACFTU and the ITF plan to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in the near future with a view to further deepening mutual understanding, enhancing information sharing and strengthening cooperation in sectors covering not only seafarers but also dock, railway, civil aviation and women transport workers.