Unions denounce poor working conditions of crews on international ships
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    Unions denounce poor working conditions of crews on international ships

    Poor-quality drinking water and late or partial payment of wages are among the substandard working conditions faced by crews on international ships and denounced by trade unions at a protest on Monday in the Port of Ghent. The action was initiated by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), to which the ACV Transcom and the FGTB-UBT are affiliated.

    ITF inspectors tried to board the ship Pegasus of the Blumenthal company, accused by the federation of social dumping and poor working conditions on board its vessels. “We tried to go on board to check the working and living conditions,” ITF inspector Christian Roos explained, “but the ship’s commander did not authorise it.”

    For the ITF, this is proof that the German company, which has about 50 ships, each employing some 20 persons, is covering up abuses. Similar companies are also on the radar of the international union.

    The ITF estimates that about 1.3 million seamen and women worldwide work under the non-regulated FOC system, which allows shipowners to determine operational conditions on their vessels independently of national labour laws.

    Many of these workers are victims of intimidation and/or punished by rationing, the ITF says. Crews cannot decide to join unions and are made to sign “happy letters” stating that they are not interested in the advances of trade unions, it adds.

    According to an ITF brochure, working conditions include defective washing machines, obsolete TV sets and a lack of recreational spaces on board the ships, in addition to the poor water quality and late or partial pay.

    The international organisation has asked Blumenthal and the other companies operating under the FOC system to sign collective labour agreements approved by the ITF.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times