Union Action yields crew agreements and back wages at Indian ports

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Mumbai harbour
Mumbai harbour

Dockers and Seafarers unions in India have sent out a strong message to ship owners warning them against Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping, as the first staggered week long action in selected ports entered its third day. Ship inspections of 32 mercantile vessels over the last 3 days have led to the signing of three agreements ensuring respectable wages to seafarers and payment of over USD 100,000 in back wages to seafarers.

Due to the vast advance publicity of the Week of Action ITF Inspector in Mumbai port succeeded late last week to sign an ITF acceptable agreement with the Greek owners for the Indonesian crew on board m.v Porto Mania. The crew had not been paid for the last two months and most of the crew contracts had expired. The Company transferred USD 60,000 to crew accounts and another USD 40,000 was distributed in cash on board. Another vessel m.v Attar owned in Iran was detained on the request of Dockers and Seafarers union by the Port State Control which will now inspect the vessel for deficiencies.

At Kandla, the Transport & Dock Workers Union took action on vessel m.v Palmore but the owners expressed their inability to sign an agreement citing financial crisis. On another Liberia flagged vessel Ras Ghumyas-I the prospects of an ITF acceptable agreement have brightened as a result of Union action and crew complaints of poor conditions.

Also in New Mangalore where ITF does not have an Inspector, the Dockers unions tried hard to secure a decent crew agreement on board tanker Sea Force but due to shortage of time, negotiations with the company remained inconclusive and the vessel left the port. Unions have assured the ITF that they will continue to target this vessel.

In Tuticorin, at the privately owned PSA terminal, the dockers union stood in solidarity with the crew on board St. John Glory, which ultimately resulted in the company agreeing to sign an ITF acceptable agreement. Further negotiations also led the company to sign up one more of their vessel AAL Kobe with ITF London.

Dockers Unions in Goa and Visakhapatnam also inspected flags of convenience (FOC) vessels in their ports and issued notices of warning to companies denying decent wage and work conditions to its crew on board these vessels.

After considerable difficulty port and seafarers union activists were finally able to enter the DPW owned private terminal in JNPT port near Mumbai on the third day of the Action Week, but non-cooperation from the captain of FOC vessel MSC Scotland prevented the team to inspect the vessel.

Unions in their week long campaign are also highlighting deterioration of port and dock workers conditions due to privatisation and deregulation and the growing incidence of casual and non-union employment particularly in the global network terminals (GNTs) owned by companies like Maersk (APM), Port Singapore Authority (PSA) and Dubai Ports World (DPW).