Seafarers’ unions and maritime employers have signed a four-year agreement that will see significant wage increases and dozens of workplace protections and improvements for over 250,000 seafarers’ serving on more than 10,000 vessels.
The International Bargaining Forum (IBF), the forum that negotiates the world’s largest global collective bargaining agreement, agreed terms for the 2024-2027 IBF Framework Agreement last week in Berlin, Germany.
Seafarers covered by the agreement will receive a 6 percent wage increase over the next two years (4 per cent wage and compensations increase from 1 January 2024 and 2 per cent wage and compensations increase from 1 January 2025). The 2026-27 pay deal and cost items will be negotiated in 2025.
In addition, the agreement includes reference to ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment to reinforce a joint commitment to provide safe workplaces free of violence, discrimination and harassment for all seafarers. There was also a joint recognition of the importance of safe working practices in cargo lashing in the common fight against malpractice.
A new working group was also established that will focus on the future of seafaring and major challenges that the industry faces including the impact of new technology, the introduction of alternative fuels, and ensuring a just transition as the industry responds to climate change. Concerns around seafarers’ hours of work, crewing levels, fatigue and duration of employment will also fall under the remit of the working group.
Under the agreement, the JNG also committed to remind their members of the importance of respecting national cabotage provisions and committed to working together with the ITF on a strategy to work towards more and more seafarers receiving a reasonable amount of internet access free of charge.
ITF spokesperson and ITF Seafarers’ Section Chair David Heindel said: “This has been a particularly complicated set of negotiations coming out of the Covid pandemic, which has taken a great deal of effort and compromise on both sides to get this right for the times. This is a fair deal. We have agreed a working group that will look at the future needs of a changing industry with an eye on the needs of seafarers, with a focus on recruiting.
ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair Paddy Crumlin said: “The pay deal locked into this agreement provides concrete financial recognition for the critical contribution that seafarers make to the global economy and also recognises the sacrifice that seafarers have carried over the past few years and throughout the pandemic. The relationship between ITF and the JNG remains in good shape despite the challenges that these negotiations faced.
ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said: “Over the four years of this agreement, we have a lot of important issues to discuss so that we can continue to enhance the living and working conditions of all seafarers on IBF covered vessels. The biggest challenges we all face is the just transition and the move to alternative fuels. How the industry recruits and motivates our seafarers and ensures they have the skills for the future, this is firmly on our forward-looking agenda.”
Spokesperson for the Joint Negotiating Group of maritime employers (JNG) and Chairman of IMEC, Captain Belal Ahmed said: ”Once again the resilient partnership between JNG and ITF produced an outstanding outcome in the latest IBF round which both sides and their constituents will be happy to bring to their respective members, seafarers were rewarded for the sacrifices they made during the Covid pandemic when they stood out as key workers. Post Covid joint initiatives by JNG and ITF to face together the new and unprecedented challenges for our industry will now take centre stage. I believe this partnership is key to address the issues affecting seafarers’ welfare and training today towards the ultimate aim of decarbonising and achieving net zero shipping by 2050 whilst resolving seafarers’ shortages.”
Also from the employers’ side of the table, Chairman of JNG and IMMAJ Mr Toshihito Inoue added: “The negotiations were particularly tough this time, due to the challenges the pandemic brought about both on seafarers and employers. Nevertheless, we managed to dialogue in good faith, proving the strong partnership we have developed over the past twenty years lives on. I was also pleased that we had a chance to talk about the future of our industry, including ways to attract seafarers going forward, the environmental challenges that await us and the technological solutions that will both help us and at the same time demand that we change with the times.”
About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice for nearly 20 million working women and men in the transport industry across the world.
About the JNG: The Joint Negotiating Group (JNG) allows for the coordination of the views of employers from across the world in the maritime industry. The JNG today consists of the International Maritime Employers' Council (IMEC), the International Mariners Management Association of Japan (IMMAJ), the Korean Shipowners Association (KSA) and Taiwan-based company Evergreen.