According to statistics released today by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), union ship inspectors collected almost USD $37 million in unpaid wages owing to seafarers last year as reported by ITF Global.
The ITF’s 125 inspectors and coordinators completed 7,265 inspections in 2021 to support thousands of seafarers with wage claims and repatriation cases, despite Covid-19 restrictions preventing inspectors’ ability to board ships for much of the year.
ITF Inspectors get their name because they board and ‘inspect’ ships.
The officials cover more than 100 ports across 50 countries.
Inspectors are trained to look for exploitation and overwork – even for signs of forced labour and modern slavery.
“Crew can generally work out when they’re being underpaid.
ITF inspectors help seafarers recover what’s owed to them.”
Altogether, the ITF clawed back USD $37,591,331 in unpaid wages and entitlements from shipowners in 2021.
Seafarers wage changing
Trowsdale said the makeup of seafarers’ wage claims was changing: “Concerningly, we’re seeing a rise in the number of seafarers reporting non-payment of wages for periods of two months or longer, which actually meets the ILO’s definition of abandonment.”
The ITF reported 85 cases of abandonment to the International Labour Organization (ILO) last year, a historic high.
In many of those cases, the abandoned crew had already been waiting on several weeks or months of unpaid wages – including those aboard the storm-hit MV Lidia.
ITF inspector based in Hong Kong, Jason Lam, helped eight Burmese seafarers who were crewing the MV Lidia recover almost USD $30,000 in unpaid wages after they ran aground in October 2021, thanks to a typhoon that left them close to shipwrecked.
The shipowner refused to pay the two months’ wages he owed them, abandoning them and ruling out any assistance to get them home.
Crew change crisis
Weeks of campaigning by Lam on behalf of the seafarers had an impact, and on 2 November 2021, the crew flew home – full wages in hand.
“I’m extremely proud of the work our inspectors have done to support seafarers in the last year, often working in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances,” he said.
As the crew change crisis worsened in early 2021, a flood of requests filled the ITF’s inboxes from crew desperate to sign off and get home.
But on some ships, other more sinister factors were at play in keeping the crew from their families.
“There is evidence that some shipowners were using Covid-19 as an excuse to keep seafarers working beyond their initial contracts and in complete violation of those seafarers’ human and labour rights,” said Trowsdale.
“There are no shadows to hide in anymore when it comes to global supply chain accountability,” he said.
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Source: ITF Global