ITF-affiliated seafarers’ unions from Germany and Ukraine have announced a new project to provide free dental services to seafarers.
ver.di and the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU) launched ‘Union Dent’ in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa in late October. The programme will give free access to dentists for Ukrainian seafarers working onboard German shipowners’ vessels covered by ver.di collective bargaining agreements. The project is supported by the MTWTU’s maritime welfare fund, ‘MORTRANS’.
MTWTU Chairman Oleg Grygoriuk said: “More than 20 years’ cooperation binds us with ver.di. Under the Memorandum of Understanding concluded between our unions, many social projects have been successfully implemented over the years. It is because of that shared history of solidarity, that we invited our brothers and sisters from ver.di to work with us to bring the Union Dent project to fruition.
“This initiative will allow Ukrainian seafaring union members to receive high quality services. It proves yet again that the MTWTU is a progressive union committed to improving the lives of our members and their families.”
ver.di’s Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth said: “We have come quite a long way as unions in partnership and we are pleased to open this facility to provide this important service. I hope it will make a difference for seafarers. Together, unions are reaching across borders and seas to make a difference to the lives of seafarers, showing them the value of standing together, helping each other and joining together in union.”
“It’s a great step forward, so thank you!”
The unions are focused on dental because they believe that earlier intervention can help prevent dental disease amongst seafarers and keep their teeth healthy. It’s a view shared by a seafarer who works for a company that has been working with the ITF on seafarer welfare issues through the pandemic and was a speaker at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Based on my experience a small health issue onshore can become a big problem onboard,” said Evgeniy Silvestrov, Chief Mate at Marlow Navigation.
“Being in an enclosed space far from shore without any access to health care, health issues may grow into serious problems for a seafarer. That is why it’s necessary for us to join our ships in a healthy state. Of course, we’re all humans and we know how hard it is to be healthy all the time, but certain support allows us to prepare better.”
“I am sure I express the view of all seafarers in saying that it is so important for us to see that somebody really cares. Today I am impressed that our union is implementing such a project. I appreciate your care and it means a lot to me. Thank you.”
Silvestrov hopes the friendship between the two ITF unions will mean more collaboration to come to benefit seafarers.