31 Agustus 2014

[310814.EN.BIZ] Social Justice At Sea Narrows Racial Wage Gaps, Improves Conditions

EUROPEAN seafarers still command better wages than others though the gap is narrowing, says a spokesman for seafarer wage benchmarking consultancy Precious Alliance, reports Lloyd's List.

Differences are not huge. "You are not looking at double wages. There is a definite premium, but it isn't something that is scaring people from employing them," he said.

A Polish master on a product tanker can expect to be paid US$7,500-$8,500 a month, compared to the $6,500-$7,000 for a Filipino.

A Polish master on a bulk carrier can make $4,000-$5,500 a month, which overlaps with the $3,500-$4,200 a Filipino would command, according to Precious Alliance.

The International Maritime Employers' Council (IMEC) said the employer of German officers was paying $12,000-$14,000 a month for a master and $8,000 for a fourth engineer with other grades in between.

Croatian masters get $10,000 a month, although other grades do less well proportionately. No other masters get more than $9,000, said the report.

A Filipino master can be had for $6,000, less than half the salary of his German counterpart, while Chinese, Ukrainian and Filipino third engineers and third officers get between $2,000-$4,000 half the rate of a German fourth engineer.

IMEC operations and training manager Adam Lewis said Europeans get more because "they're are worth it".

"You've got to look at other aspects," he said. "It could be quality, it could be communication on board, it could be leadership. A lot of shipowners will look at more than just price on board."

When Maersk sacked 200 European seafarers in a cost-saving drive six year ago, the company said Danish chief stewards were six to seven times more expensive than those from low wage countries.

In wages, there is minimum for an AB (able) seaman agreed by the International Labour Organisation Joint Maritime Commission, binding on all 185 member states.

This rose to $585 a month from the end of last year. Assuming 104 hours overtime a month and paid annual leave, this equates in practice to something like $1,028 a month.

British seamen earn an average $44,900 a year according to Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, published by Britain's Office of National Statistics.

Then there is the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), which is supposed to enhance the lives of seafarers.

Marc Schippers, who ministers to seafarers in Antwerp, remains unconvinced about the effectiveness of the convention.

"If you compare the figures, the number of exploitation cases I have handled since the MLC was put in place has not dropped from last year," he said.

"Working hours and levels of tiredness remain concerning - the hours of sleep that most seafarers get before coming into port is still very low, which can lead to extreme fatigue, accidents and poor decision making. This is what I nhe said.

But Peter Donald, Sailors' Society's Dundee and Montrose chaplain, said the MLC is a "great begining".

"Reputable companies were already providing a good living and working standard for their crews, and now display notices and certificates of compliance," he said.

"The difference is that crews now feel they have more bargaining power when conditions are not up to scratch. If something is substandard, they feel they can speak up and assert their rights," said Mr Donald.

Source : HKSG.

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