Since Ukraine has not ratified the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006), the position of Ukrainian seafarers within the maritime labour market is becoming more complicated on a daily basis. Foreign shipowners are mainly interested recruiting seamen
from the MLC 2006 member states.
In addition, amid the current economic crisis, many shipowners cannot afford to pay the minimum wage of US $1,800 to ratings; they therefore hire seafarers from India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries, and pay them a minimum wage of US $1,100. As a result, an entire sector of our seafarers, consisting of young specialists without work experience, experienced older seamen who are able and willing to work at sea, and young officers-to-be in need of sea-going experience, have lost their jobs. This is despite the fact that Ukrainian seafarers, ratings and officers alike, have consistently proved their expertise and qualifications.
Shipping companies frequently have to make prompt crewing decisions. However, it may require up to two years of time-consuming negotiations in order to amend and to approve global collective bargaining agreements. Our collective bargaining agreement is a framework agreement, and therefore permits certain deviations from the text, in line with the requirements of the MLC 2006, ILO recommendations and Ukrainian law. Hence, before signing the agreement, a trade union and a shipowner can make certain acceptable amendments in view of current market demand.
According to the Constitution of Ukraine and the standards of international law, no worker can be forced to join one trade union or another. Nevertheless, situations sometimes arise when seafarers experience pressure from trade unions (often with the involvement of dockers) aimed at forcing them to become a member of a particular union.
Port authorities often enquire as to why Ukrainian crews are covered by another country’s national collective bargaining agreement. For instance, a crew may consist of 18 Ukrainians and three Filipinos, all of whom are covered by a German collective bargaining agreement. In this case, shipowners pay trade union fees to the German trade union, to which the seafarers do not belong. This practice may become grounds for claims. If the crew consists mostly of Ukrainians, then a Ukrainian national collective bargaining agreement can protect both parties: Ukrainian seafarers and their employers.
This is the first time in the history of the independent Ukraine that maritime trade unions have agreed to create a national platform in order to join forces towards improvements to the competitive advantage of Ukrainian seafarers within the international labour market and to ensure respect for the labour rights of seafarers. We also strive to provide fair and transparent access to quality education and a certification system for seafarers.