AmericasOperations

ITF in Canada shows seafarers the way home

Seafarers must speak up and then they can be repatriated, argues a senior name within the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) today. 

Peter Lahay, the national coordinator for the ITF in Canada, has been defending seafarers rights for 30 years, and is adamant that stranded crew must do more to make their voices heard and get home. 

Seafarers are allowing themselves to be victimised

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but seafarers themselves are allowing themselves to be victimised. Seafarers, you have human rights, if you are sailing through through countries that adhere to the rule of law please use your rights. Your basic human rights and your rights under MLC. Give notice that you wish to leave the ship. Refuse to sail on. If you are over a year and refuse to continue we will get you off,” Lahay told Splash, adding: “If all you do to help yourself is set up a fake Facebook account to cry out from your dark cabin the owners and governments will not listen.”

Crewing agencies blacklist seafarers who dare go against their commands

Port State Control is hiding behind a “regulatory smoke screen of excuses”, Lahay said, while the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has not been capable of enforcing crew change. 

Lahay’s comments have sparked considerable debate online about how to avoid crews being blacklisted and also how, once off ship, to send them home.

Questioning the ITF stance on social media, former seafarer John Nicholson, now a senior marine surveyor with Idwal, highlighted the  fear that crewing agencies have struck into seafarers.

“Crewing agencies blacklist seafarers who dare go against their commands. Crews are scared of not getting jobs in the future if they try and get off their vessels,” Nicholson stated.

Another former seafarer commented via Facebook: “Majority of seafarers are employed basis short term garbage contract and whilst it offers them some protection for duration of such contracts , such protection is null and void upon contract completion. Hence the future reemployment depends on the whim or good will of crewing departments, who may find a zillion excuses not to reemploy those whom they may label and/or consider as trouble makers. One can not fight back on legal grounds as on leave there is no legal, contractual relation between an employer and employee.”

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton responded to seafarer blacklisting concerns last month in an interview with Splash, saying his organisation has had a system in place for many years with responsible owners to filter crew back to work.

Lahay went on to explain how crew that do choose to down tools can get home. 

Crew from a vessel Lahay has been monitoring had been asking for a month to leave the ship. They got in touch with Lahay on June 22. 

Lahay informed the shipping company and along with inspectors in Quebec and Halifax set about getting the Ukrainian and Indians off. The owners then tried and failed to get visas for joining crew from labour supply countries. 

The crew grew increasingly frustrated and before leaving Quebec City for Lewisporte, Newfoundland they gave seven days notice to down tools and leave without relievers if necessary.

 ITF told the company they could get relievers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania or Poland, nationalities that do not need visas to enter Canada and join a ship. The company subsequently found seven Romanian relievers. 

“These men are going to go home because they worked with us. They are going home because they stood on their feet,” Lahay said.

Last week’s keenly anticipated global crew change summit convened by the UK has been attacked today as meaningless by Frank Coles, the head of Hong Kong-based Wallem Group. 

“Maritime key workers should bypass the visa restrictions, a discharge book should be accepted by all, special seafarers’ flights should be made available in key places to key ports. We need a global logistics operation that should be executed by key governments to preserve world trade, human rights and mental welfare,” Coles wrote in a widely read contribution on this site

Tags

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

Comments

  1. So, sailors who have just suffered this crisis, once recovered from its consequences, will repeat again the same actions that made them worthy of suffering; and, consequently, a new crisis will fall upon them in the next ship!!

    ITF are the gravediggers of the sailors !!

  2. It appears (from just reading this article) that Peter Lahay has not the slightest inkling of how 9 in 10 seafarers from developing nations are employed, and their relationship with the Captain, head Ship Managers, sub-shipmanagers, crewing agency, crew procurement agency in their own Province, the facilitator that “got them through the door” at the agency, the middleman that introduced the facilitator, etc etc. They are thinking about the next 20 years of employment, putting food on the table with spiralling costs back home as globalisation bites at their buying power in place of origin, and the counterproductive nature of burning any bridges whatsoever when there are a hundred others to take their place.
    It must be easy to pontificate from the elevated lectern of a highly unionised developed nation where employers actually feel they need to talk to employees, and perhaps even talk to Unions – for all these guys, the anonymous Facebook account is the only safe route. Don’t increase the pressure and sense of entrapment by handing down judgemental statements.

  3. Well said Philip.
    Peter Lahay, the national coordinator for the ITF in Canada, ‘has been defending seafarers rights for 30 years’, he says. He shows that he is totally detached from reality and that he has absolutely no understanding of seafarers lives, employment prospects and methods, and their extremely poor treatment by the very industry they serve for far too many decades to count.

    It is so easy to blame the victims for the ills within this lucrative industry. Unless of course he is defending the lives of hundreds of thousands of CANADIAN SEAFARERS that serve the global fleet whose voice is clearly heard wherever they may be.

    “ITF told the company they could get relievers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania or Poland, nationalities that do not need visas to enter Canada and join a ship. The company subsequently found seven Romanian relievers. ”

    The Ukrainians and Indians are not replaced by their own nationalities but by those from a country that DOES NOT NEED ENTRY VISAS TO ENTER CANADA. Fancy this. What happened to the resolution by a few countries on the 9th of July 2020 and the request request for the recognition of seafarers as ‘KEY-WORKERS’.
    As Frank Coles from Wallem Group points out, paper exercises are not worth the paper they are written on. If the shipping industry cannot raise its voice for and on behalf of seafarers, perhaps it is time that big players such as GM< Ford, Toyota, Daimler, VW, Walmart, Amazon, TESCO, et al started making their voices heard on behalf of seafarers. Same as big names do for those manufacturers with factories in developing countries who employ slave labour to maximize profit.

    Please don't push seafarers over the edge – they are already staring down from the cliff-edge.

    And by the way criticism of IMO should be targeted at the Member States, NOT at the SG and the staff of the IMO Secretariat, please.

  4. Well said Philip.
    Peter Lahay, the national coordinator for the ITF in Canada, ‘has been defending seafarers rights for 30 years’, he says. He shows that he is totally detached from reality and that he has absolutely no understanding of seafarers lives, employment prospects and methods, and their extremely poor treatment by the very industry they serve for far too many decades to count.

    It is so easy to blame the victims for the ills within this lucrative industry. Unless of course Peter Lahay is defending the lives of the hundreds of thousands of CANADIAN SEAFARERS that serve the global fleet whose voice is clearly heard wherever they may be.

    “ITF told the company they could get relievers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania or Poland, nationalities that do not need visas to enter Canada and join a ship. The company subsequently found seven Romanian relievers. ”

    The Ukrainians and Indians are not replaced by their own nationalities but by those from a country that DOES NOT NEED ENTRY VISAS TO ENTER CANADA. Fancy this. What happened to the resolution by a few countries on the 9th of July 2020 and the request for the recognition of seafarers as ‘KEY-WORKERS’.

    As Frank Coles from Wallem Group points out, paper exercises are not worth the paper they are written on.
    If the shipping industry cannot raise its voice for and on behalf of seafarers, perhaps it is time that big players such as GM, Ford, Toyota, Daimler, VW, Walmart, Amazon, TESCO, et al started making their voices heard on behalf of seafarers. Same as big names do for those manufacturers with factories in developing countries who employ slave labour to maximize profit (and sometimes boycott their products).

    Please don’t push seafarers over the edge – they are already staring down from the cliff-edge.

    And by the way criticism of IMO should be targeted at the Member States, NOT at the SG and the staff of the IMO Secretariat, please.

  5. A quick look at your LinkedIn shows you are management types and clearly anti union. Why do you folks leap to reinforcing the notion that crew will be blacklisted? .Is it not time to give up on notions of exploitable and forced labour? All I ask is that you put this much energy into getting crew off of ships. I hope you feel better blowing off a bit of rage against the people that pick up the telephone and often pick up the pieces from your pleading crews.

    Last night an Indian crew called me. Half the crew have been on board 14 months. The Chief Officer, nearly crying, said they do not get off here they say they will be on for another 3 months. Last night colleague was talking to family of a an officer inbound to Hong Kong. The officer was expressing mental fatigue, that he can no longer carry on navigating safely. He needs off. Will you make him stay?

    So while you rage at me I will listen to the crew who drown out your angry voices.

    We are working with ship managers, agents and government, but I can tell you not all owners are making a genuine effort.

    Speak out as an industry against blacklisting instead of propping it up! It doesn’t look good on the industry in this day and age.

    1. ITF is “call center” or a union ?? Sailors do not need to whine over the phone, they need efficient political struggle, and that is precisely what the ITF does not offer.

  6. Well finally someone whoever it b speaks the TRUTH that the men themselves on board the vessels shud
    do something if they r not satisfied with whats going on we hve the typical response !!
    U r are mgt. !! U r owner ! U r from ship manager ! U r banker ! U r ??????
    It is endless.
    If the seamen around the world sailing on the ships that so called control the world trade, the world wud collapse if not fr the “poor” seamen etc etc are so badly treated, effected by the virus why dont they do something themselves ?

    It is simple, majority of the seaman r very we;ll off, they have lived beyond their means, over extended themselves credit
    wise, they r running business ashore, dont pay tax in their country etc. & now suddenly when the truth strikes home they claim poverty !!!!!!
    Welcome to the real world .

    NO BALLS BABY, they just looking fr the sympathy factor.

  7. The ITF should be doing more to pressure governments and airlines, who they also represent, as they are the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), to do more to help seafarers to get home. I am a Crewing Manager and the last few months has been horrible for me, seeing my friends & colleagues aboard be denied to leave their vessel because of governments making it nigh on impossible for crew to sign off, by their Covid-19 restrictions on seafarers. Even countries where you can perform a crew change, such as Singapore, make it virtually impossible for people to sign off. We have a vessel arriving Singapore 18th July & departing 19th July. Off signing crew were booked to depart Singapore on 21st July; however, this flight was cancelled by the airline and rebooked to depart 22nd (This was done, because of The Philippines government’s restrictions on people entering Manila in a single day). When we informed the Singapore authorities of this change, they rejected the crew sign off, as their flight departure was more than the 48 hours they stipulated as the maximum crew may stay in the country after the vessel’s departure. Pathetic. 48 hours is absolutely impossible to adhere to. Now we have to try to sign crew on in Singapore and sign them off in another port, if we can, in another closer country that also allows crew changes and is not too much of a deviation for the vessel from its planned trading route.

    What is the ITF doing to support those owners, who care about their seafarers, that are paying double wages (due to crew being stuck aboard, but their reliefs have joined) & high flight costs? Nothing. Try lobbying your airlines to increase pressure on their own governments, to increase passenger numbers. Ship owners federations, which I am involved with, in seafarer supply countries, such as The Philippines, are lobbying their governments every day to get these numbers increased. Where is the ITF during this? Nowhere to be seen! Ship owners & managers are pushing this. No one else.

    The ITF has never, does not and will not ever, care about seafarers. They only care about the fees they make from ship owners in falsely representing seafarers. I have worked in ship management for 23 years and have never seen the ITF do anything for seafarers. All I have seen from the ITF is them trying to pressure owners into signing agreements with them. Once the agreement is signed, they disappear.

    1. I am happy to debate our record of representing seafarers if you want. Every year we return $40 million in cheated salary to seafarers. Today in Vancouver we got eight crew off a ship. Had it detained by PSC because the owners refused to get these men off. 11 of them between 11-15 months. Plus they were cheating them on their salary and stealing 35 hours a month overtime for them.

      Last week we got some Burmese off of a Taiwan owned ship. More than 12 months. They each got between $10k and $12k in cheated wages. I can give you more examples of seafarers in distress and laggard owners. Maybe you can tell me off line what company you work for and I can check our database to see if you really are the friend if seafarers you say you are. Please feel free to reach out. Happy to have this debate online or off.

  8. Lahay is nowhere a seafarer, does not know what he is talking about, he should be away from real international talks.

Back to top button
Close
Close