It was a busy day for all three Canadian inspectors as they climbed gangways on the Day of the Seafarer June 25th. For Gerard Bradbury, our Atlantic region inspector, wage problems found on a ship in Halifax have now been resolved for 11 Filipino crew.
While aboard the tanker MV Elixir, part of the Flag of Convenience registry of the Marshall Islands, Gerard was inspecting pay records when he noticed that the seafarers’ employment contracts were filled in with amounts lower than the collective bargaining agreement for this ship. The agreement was signed by an ITF-affiliated seafarers union, the Pan Hellenic Seaman’s Union of Greece. When an affiliate of the ITF signs a collective bargaining agreement, they are required to meet agreed minimum standards. This is known as an ITF Acceptable Agreement.
Here is what happens — and what probably explains Gerard’s finding on board the tanker. When seafarers are being assigned and deployed to ships, the crewing agency requires they sign an employment contract in their home country. The wages contained in the employment contract are in line with those agreed between the ship’s operator and the crewing agency. Often, these salary levels are not in compliance with any particular collective agreement that may be in force on the given vessel, and the crew are not advised that the ship is covered by an ITF Acceptable Agreement.
When caught, the operators will often cite a mistake made by the crewing agents. We would note that we never find similar “mistakes” being made in favor of the seafarer.
Gerard made a fortunate catch for the 11 Filipino ratings. All of the ranks from steward to bosun were being underpaid — some would say cheated — by between $20 US and $299 US per month. Luckily for the crew, they had just come aboard in April, so the monies owing were not very large. But they could have been. In the case of the bosun, for example, had the underpayment not been detected, he would have surely been cheated approximately $3,000 — or about 20 per cent of his income — during his 10 months aboard.
As well, the owner of that tanker knows we are on top of them now.