IN what could be considered a reward for braving the pandemic and, in many instances, for serving onboard their ships beyond their contracts, seafarers in over 9,000 ships worldwide will enjoy a 4.5 percent increase in wages and compensation over two years starting January 1, 2022.
Dr. Conrado Oca, president of the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), broke the good news in an interview shortly after the inauguration of the E-Library the seafarers’ union donated to the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) last November 25.
“Katatapos lang ng IBF (International Bargaining Forum) negotiations. The unions were able to negotiate for additional pay,” said the AMOSUP chief executive.
The negotiated increase will cover those seafarers who serve on IBF ships.
Established in 2003, the IBF serves as the mechanism where the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which AMOSUP is an affiliate, negotiates with the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG), which represents four maritime employers’ groups: International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), International Mariners Management Association of Japan (IMMAJ), Korean Shipowners Association (KSA), and Taiwan-based company Evergreen.
“May agreement na. Na-sign na at the IBF level. It has been signed by IMMAJ, the group of Japanese employers, and IMEC whose members are European employers,” he further said. “The increase will be implemented on a staggered basis in the next two years,” Oca added. Under the IBF Framework Agreement, seafarers will receive a three percent wage increase starting January 1, 2022, and a further one-and-a-half percent increase starting January 1, 2023.
In addition, the agreement also provides for an increase in employers’ contribution to the IBF Seafarers Support Fund, which provides for the welfare of seafarers aboard vessels covered by IBF agreements. The JNG represents about 9,200 ships. In a statement after the negotiations, the ITF said:
“The negotiations were particularly challenging due to the profit variations in the industry, as well as the increased operational costs due to the pandemic.” Both the ITF and the JNG, however, “acknowledged the need to recognize the sacrifices that seafarers have made during the pandemic, continuing to keep global trade moving whilst unable to return home following the expiry of their contracts, and receiving no wage increase in 2021.”
The agreement between the ITF and the JNG sets the terms, conditions, and pay for the world’s international seafarers working on board vessels considered flying a flag of convenience by the ITF. Meanwhile, Dr. Oca also disclosed that the members of AMOSUP, the country’s biggest seafarers’ union, had been badly affected by the pandemic.
“Malaki ang epekto kasi ang mga tao namin nagkakasakit din ng Covid; anyone can get sick. Everyone is affected hindi lang kami,” he said, adding that there was an actual drop in the number of his members. “For a time, bumaba ang (number ng) members namin last year nung kasagsagan ng pandemya such as in the cruise industry, but now we’re recovering,” the AMOSUP president continued.
Nonetheless, he declared that the union was able to preserve most of its members.”Bumaba man ang membership naming, never kaming bumaba sa 100,000 members,” he said.