We wanted to say a quick thank-you for all the interest in our posts on the Maritime Labour Convention this week. You never know what to expect when you dedicate that much space to a regulatory topic — but we got a lot of shares and tweets and emails, and it feels great to have been able to record the history of our latest labour tool, and some of the horror stories that led to its adoption.
It’s also heartening that people care about efforts to improve the life of working people — and the sometimes-obscure international and technical tools we have to develop to protect them in their workplaces. Solidarity is a magnificent thing, so thanks for that too.
We’re going to close by sharing one of the best emails that rolled across our screen this week. Last word goes to Vince Giannopoulos, our ITF inspector in the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes region. Vince sent along his own thoughts about how it feels to be a relatively new inspector and have the weight of the MLC available as he works daily to enforce seafarers’ labour rights:
“Being appointed as an ITF inspector in a post-MLC2006 time is pretty significant. I’m working with the bible, as it’s referred to by most of us.
“As with any job in the maritime sector, the ITF inspectorate is full of old warriors with old sea stories. I’ve heard endless stories from experienced inspectors, full of different details of different cases. Most often, the stories end with “Boy are you lucky you’ve got the MLC2006 on your side now”.
“This year marks two years since the convention has been enforced in Canada, and so far, its record gives me many reasons to be happy about it. I have personally worked with crews on cases where we were able to get the necessary leverage over a company by using some of the protection offered by the convention. It covers very important and frequently reported issues — such as the details required in a seafarer’s contract, and the details regarding a seafarers’ entitlement to repatriation.
“The MLC2006 has taken some criticism from some as well, and while I think it’s a great tool to have in the belt, it’s certainly not an all-purpose tool that can deal with all the issues that seafarers face, and I’d like to take a quick look at why I think that is.
“The MLC is split into two parts, and only one is mandatory.
“Another problem is that while there are some mandatory compliances, the wording is often a little more vague than one would expect from an international convention.
“Maybe it’s because I don’t have the previous experience of working without the MLC, but I defend it nonetheless. It is not perfect, but I believe that the slightly open language used was probably necessary. As well, I remind myself that there are 66 countries that have ratified (and counting), and as we continue to improve upon it, hopefully the requirements will continue to trend in the right direction.
“The most important thing to remember is that ships flying the flag of a ratifying country must have a DMLC on board, a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance. The language in the book can be as open or as direct as we want, but it doesn’t mean much without the men and women on the ground every day, enforcing it.”
Well said, Vince.
If you’re just catching up now, here’s how our week looked:
- Monday: The world adopts a Seafarers Bill of Rights
- Tuesday: Canada’s experience with substandard shipping
- Wednesday: ITF’s Katie Higginbottom and the global perspective
- Thursday: The ABCs of abandonment (Part 1)
The human face of abandonment (Part 2)
- Friday: First-ever MLC detention goes to Canada
- Saturday: Closing thoughts for Your Saturday Listen