Awareness week prompts 125 Myanmar seafarers to join union

A union awareness week in January by the ITF and the Independent Federation of Myanmar Seafarers (IFOMS) persuaded 125 seafarers to become union members for the first time.

More than 400 seafarers and 100 cadets from the Myanmar Maritime University – most of them not union members – participated in the first of what will become an annual event.

They heard from IFOMS officials and experienced ITF inspectors and staff what unions do in terms of defending and promoting workers’ rights and collective bargaining, why they are important and why seafarers should become members.

They also learned about the impact and importance for seafarers of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) and its provisions on abandonment, which came into force on 18 January 2017. These require all shipowners to have insurance to assist seafarers on board vessels if they are abandoned.

Participants had the opportunity at the end of each day to ask questions.

The sessions were also attended by representatives of 55 manning agents and the Myanmar Seafarers Employment and Services Federation (MSESF). The MSESF committed to co-operate with IFOMS and the ITF to promote Myanmar’s maritime industry.

ITF inspectorate co-ordinator Steve Trowsdale said: “It was a great week with a great result of 125 new IFOMS members.

“The seafarers told us how useful it was to get so much important information about trade unions face-to-face. And they were impressed by how much IFOMS has already achieved in winning backpay and compensation for seafarers.”

Everyone who attended was given this MLC poster explaining what to do if abandoned.

The programme followed a successful pilot in the Ukraine in May 2016.

IFOMS held its inaugural congress on 31 March 2015 and now has 1,850 members.

In October 2016, IFOMS and the ITF held a successful MLC seminar in Yangon.

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