Today is the annual Day of the Seafarer. And we have a suggestion for an industry that claims to salute the men and women who move the world’s goods.
We suggest showing some actual respect. The same muscular respect that workers show to each other, to our families, to our friends, to our communities.
In 2010, the International Maritime Organization designated June 25 as a day to give thanks to seafarers for their contribution to the world economy and to civil society, and for the risks and personal costs they bear while on their jobs.
The maritime industry generally responds with a series of lunches, attended largely by industry, and fundraisers for charitable groups that support seafarers’ centres. It also responds with a generous outpouring of platitudes.
It has become a limp and meaningless salute. It is beyond insulting.
We’d suggest there is a better way to show respect for seafarers.
Making life aboard their floating workplaces liveable would be a good start. That would mean addressing undercrewing of vessels, and dealing with fatigue, inadequate salaries, insufficient medical care, long contracts, harassment, bullying and the ever-present threat of blacklisting that serves to keep workers in check.
The crew who labour aboard Flag of Convenience ships remain among the most isolated and marginalized workers in the world.
For the ITF Canada, the Day of the Seafarer is a day to lament and refocus. We once again offer seafarers our thanks, and renew our pledge stand up and support them, wherever and however we can, and to join with other workers worldwide in making that support effective and meaningful.