THE International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Joint Negotiating Group agreed on wage increases for seafarers, starting with a 3% increase in 2022.

The agreement was reached during the latest meeting of the International Bargaining Forum from 1-3 September. The IBF was established as a mechanism for collective bargaining between employers and unions to agree on wages and conditions for seafarers working on vessels flying open-register flags.

Due to the pandemic, the social partnership had agreed to defer the start of the negotiations for the period 2021-2022, initially scheduled for March 2020.

The JNG allows for the co-ordination of the views of employers from across the world in the maritime industry. It today consists of the International Maritime Employers’ Council, the International Mariners Management Association of Japan, the Korean Shipowners Association and Taiwan-based company Evergreen.

A statement from 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. 

However, both parties acknowledged the need to recognise the sacrifices that seafarers have made during the pandemic, continuing to keep global trade moving while unable to return home following the expiry of their contracts, and receiving no wage increase in 2021.

The negotiations concluded with the following agreement:

  • An increase on wages and compensations of 3% from 1 January 2022
  • An increase on wages and compensations of 1.5% from 1 January 2023
  • An increase in JNG members’ rebate from the ITF Welfare Fund to 20% to contribute to the IBF Seafarers Support Fund

The ITF statement said prior to the negotiations, the social partners had a period of exceptionally close co-operation, with both sides being deeply frustrated by the treatment of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic by the world’s governments. Blocked from accessing crew change to go home at the end of contracts, and even barred from many countries’ hospitals; labour and employer groups have been engaged in joint efforts to ensure seafarers’ rights are restored.

ITF seafarers’ section chair David Heindel was the ITF spokesperson and chaired the talks. He said through the past 18 months seafarers have shown exceptional professionalism and commitment through difficult situations.

“Therefore, we are proud we have managed to deliver increases to seafarers’ income. Their daily sacrifices to keep supply chains moving, delivering the goods critical to our recovery to billions of consumers and businesses is recognised,” Mr Heindel said.

Spokesperson for the JNG Captain Belal Ahmed echoed Mr Heindel’s message that the industry was thanking seafarers in very real terms.

“Employers in the maritime industry, the shipowners, the management agents: the difficult and stormy waters of this pandemic have brought us closer to the crew,” he said.

“We see the sacrifices they have made, and, where within our means as businesses committed to being around in the future: we have endeavoured to recognise the seafarers’ efforts.”

JNG chairman Mr Toshihito Inoue said, “The pay agreement locks in stability in the seafarer wage market going forward, allowing employers to better weather the volatilities in demand being experienced in various shipping markets since 2020”.

ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin, who participated in the negotiations in his capacity as co-chair of the ITF’s Fair Practices Committee, welcomed the deal.

“This is an important outcome not only for seafarers, but all maritime workers, as it shows commitment from reputable employers to the continued global collective bargaining process that is essential for the global supply chain. Multinationals in other sectors should strive to ensure proper framework agreements for their direct and indirect employees in their global supply chain,” Mr Crumlin said.

The International Bargaining Forum (IBF) Framework Agreement between the ITF and the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG) sets the terms, conditions and pay for the world’s international seafarers working aboard vessels flying the flag of an open register designated as flag of convenience by the ITF.