ITF Inspectorate: More than half a century ago, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) established a network of inspectors based in major seaports whose job is to inspect flag-of-convenience ships entering their ports to ensure that seafarers are paid decent wages, as well as ensuring acceptable living and working conditions on board. Inspectors conduct scheduled inspections and visit vessels at the request of crews. Many of them are former seafarers or dockers.
Today, the ITF Inspectorate consists of about 130 inspectors, coordinators, their assistants, and contact persons. Thousands of seafarers turn to them for help every year, and every year the inspectors return tens of millions of dollars of wages arrears to seafarers.
ITF Inspectorate Work in Ukraine
In our country, the inspection of the International Transport Workers' Federation is headed by an MTWTU employee Nataliya Yefrimenko, who has been helping foreign seafarers in the ports of Ukraine and Ukrainian seafarers whose labor rights have been violated by their employer for more than 15 years. Along with colleagues around the world, one of the key tasks of the ITF Inspection in Ukraine is to conduct inspections of the compliance of the working and living conditions of seafarers on board foreign ships with international standards, the labor legislation of the flag state, the terms of signed collective bargaining agreements and individual contracts. In addition, the ITF Inspection in Ukraine processes appeals from crews regarding delays in the payment of wages, obtaining a final settlement before signing off the ship, crew changes and repatriation, insufficient and untimely provisions for ships, illegal deductions from wages and compensation payments for unjustified early termination of the employment contract.
The duty of the ITF Inspection in Ukraine is also to visit foreign ships in the ports of Ukraine, which, unfortunately, was impossible last year for a well-known reason. Usually, during such visits, the Inspectorate employees not only check the working and living conditions on the ship but also seek to raise the awareness of seafarers about their labor rights, delivering on board ITF and MTWTU informational publications developed especially for them.
In addition, the Inspectorate in Ukraine helps Ukrainian seafarers signed off ashore to obtain wages arrears from the employer, provides payment of sick leave and compensation for medical expenses, return of illegal deductions from the balance, as well as compensation due to loss of working capacity or life.
Traditionally, at the beginning of the year, we present to our readers the results of the work of the ITF Inspection in Ukraine for the past year. Thus, despite the events in our country, last year the Inspectorate traditionally demonstrated high performance: the total amount of wages arrears and compensation payments returned to seafarers amounted to $1,627,162, of which $637,526 is net wages arrears, and $989,636 - compensation funds paid to seafarers' families.
We would like to remind you that the Inspectorate delivers advice on the coverage of a particular vessel by a collective bargaining agreement of the ITF standard, conducts an analysis of seafarer's employment contract terms, provides comments on the interpretation of the provisions of collective bargaining agreements, the legislation of flag states and international conventions. In addition, last year, both the Inspectorate and the Trade Union provided comments on the registration of seafarers and their families abroad, as well as the processing of maritime documents, the passing of medical commissions, etc. And, of course, we remind you that all our consultations are provided absolutely free of charge.
Reasons for Applications
The most frequent reasons for seafarers' to request help from the ITF Inspector in Ukraine in 2022 have traditionally been: delayed payment of wages, extended employment contracts, interruptions in the supply of food and water to the ship, medical assistance, non-payment of the balance after signing off and illegal deductions from wages. Also, last year, the inspector received and resolved nine applications from the families of deceased seafarers regarding compensation due to death.
Separately, one more reason for applications for help last year was the evacuation of foreign seafarers - crew members who were in Ukraine at the time of the war. Thus, in close cooperation with the relevant employer, insurance club, embassy, as well as the relevant military administration, the Inspectorate facilitated the repatriation of foreign crew members from ships in the ports of Ukraine - citizens of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Egypt, India, Syria, the Philippines, etc.
Despite the fact that, in general, the reasons remained the same, their order and nature changed. Thus, in 2022, overdue employment contracts were in the first place. And if earlier Ukrainian seafarers had no option for crew change due to the restrictions by the port states due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now the delay is a consequence of the introduction of martial law in Ukraine, which provides for a ban on travel abroad for men aged 18 to 60. Thus, many foreign employers, who previously actively hired the pool of Ukrainian seafarers and now lost the opportunity to take advantage of the planned shifts, actually kept seafarers on board without change. In some cases, the duration of the contract exceeded the norms allowed by international law - more than 11 months. According to the analysis, most of such applications were accompanied by wage arrears, which arose due to a number of reasons: sanctions against banks, a ban on transferring funds if the account holder is registered in the temporarily occupied territory, restrictions on withdrawing cash from foreign currency accounts, etc.
The problem of the overdue contract was not limited to sending the seafarers to the shore. Due to the closed airports in Ukraine, employers are forced to organize seafarers' transfers to countries neighboring Ukraine so that the seaman can reunite with his family in Ukraine or in a third country. Often, a seafarer and his family need help, both with temporary accommodation in a third country and with the evacuation of his family from Ukraine. And here, the ITF Inspection worked and works in close connection with the MTWTU and the Welfare Fund "MORTRANS", which since the first days of the war have been providing all kinds of assistance to the families of Ukrainian seafarers.
Also, one of the tasks of the ITF Inspection in Ukraine is to help seafarers sign off from the ships due to illness or injury. Last year, many Ukrainian seafarers signed off for this reason and received medical care outside of Ukraine. In such cases, it was crucial to ensure the availability of sufficient medical documentation for further provision to the employer in order to pay the sick leave and compensation for treatment.
As for foreign seafarers who addressees to medical institutions of Ukraine due to injury or illness, they need not only practical help in protecting their labor rights but also emotional support to a greater extent. This task is realized, in particular, thanks to cooperation with the international maritime organization Sailors' Society and its chaplains. Thus, at the beginning of last year, foreign seafarers - crew members of ships in Ukrainian ports, who suffered from shelling by Russian troops, received help and support.