New Zealand seafarers welcome New Zealand adopting Maritime Labour Convention

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has welcomed news that New Zealand will be ratifying the Maritime Labour Convention.

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) is an international treaty adopted by the International Labour Organisation and lays out minimum rights for seafarers and promotes good employment practices across the shipping industry.

It has been described as a “seafarers bill of rights.”

Maritime Union National Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the Union has been advocating New Zealand become a signatory to the MLC for some time.

“Most developed nations including Australia are signed up to the MLC and it was an anomaly that New Zealand was not.”

Mr Fleetwood says the MLC has a number of implications for New Zealand.

“The Maritime Union works with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to recover wages and deal with crew welfare issues. We note that this work is done by the unions, not by the Government, and we deal with constant issues on flag of convenience vessels on the New Zealand coast.”

The Maritime Union is an affiliate of the ITF which works to ensure the safety and wellbeing of seafarers globally.

Mr Fleetwood says that ships that have problems with crews often had multiple issues including safety and seaworthiness.

“The deregulated approach to this and other aspects of the maritime industry has been recognised as a failure, so now the move is back towards proper oversight of the industry by Government.”

More about the MLC – backgrounder

The MLC incorporates and builds on 68 pre existing maritime labour conventions and recommendations to ensure decent working and living conditions.

The MLC has been described as the fourth pillar of shipping regulation, alongside Solas (International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea), Marpol (International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships) and the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping), and is intended to be strictly enforced by flag states and port state control.

It should provide a ‘one-stop shop’ for labour standards, so all seafarers should be able to enjoy comprehensive protection of their fundamental rights.

It should also ensure good employment practice across the industry, creating a level playing field in which good ship operators are not put at an economic disadvantage by bad ones.

The MLC addresses a range of matters, including: the obligations of shipping companies with respect to seafarers’ contractual arrangements; the responsibilities of manning agencies; working hours; health and safety; existing ILO maritime standards; and accepted good employment practice.

Under it, every ship over 500 gross tonnage operating in international waters or between ports of different countries will have to have a maritime labour certificate issued by its flag administration following an inspection. There will also be a requirement for ships to complete and maintain on board a declaration of maritime labour compliance.

There are also significant provisions on welfare. States will be invited to set up welfare boards, as well as to consider the upgrading of existing seafarers’ welfare facilities and the establishment of new ones.

The MLC stipulates that everyone working on board a cruise ship making international voyages is a seafarer and entitled to the protections it guarantees – the first time ever that workers on cruise ships have fallen under such a definition.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has worked alongside shipping organisations, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and governments for over a decade to jointly create and shape the MLC, and is committed to monitoring and assisting its implementation and persuading many more countries to ratify it.

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