Maritime workers board Flag of Convenience ships in national week of action
New Zealand maritime workers will be going up the gangway this week to check out ships flying “flags of convenience” and ensure that crew conditions, wages, and health and safety standards are up to scratch.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is holding its New Zealand Flag of Convenience Week of Action this week, ending Friday 3 June 2011.
Members of the ITF-affiliated Maritime Union of New Zealand will board vessels in New Zealand’s main ports, and go over documentation such as wage books, talk to crews, and inspect the seaworthiness and safety of ships.
Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says this is part of an ongoing international campaign to improve standards in the shipping industry.
He says that there have been a number of serious incidents on overseas vessels, including FOC vessels, in New Zealand ports and in and around New Zealand waters in recent years.
“We have had ongoing incidents ranging from underpayment of wages, failure for crews to be returned home at the end of their contracts, mistreatment and abuse, all the way up to serious injuries and deaths, and the sinking of vessels.”
Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels are registered in countries with very lax or non-existent regulation of the maritime industry.
FOCs provide a means of avoiding labour regulation in the country of ownership, and become a vehicle for paying low wages and forcing long hours of work and unsafe working conditions.
ITF New Zealand inspector Grahame MacLaren says the week of action is intended to convey a clear message to Flag of Convenience operators who trade in New Zealand waters that they need to abide to basic ITF standards.
“The main focus will be to target FOC vessels without ITF agreements for the crew, but any other foreign flagged vessels will come under scrutiny.”
The ITF is made up of 681 unions representing 4,500,000 transport workers in 148 countries. It is one of several Global Union Federations allied with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).