MLC Expectations

Most cruise lines already meet or exceed the standards set by the MLC, although the social security aspect is still a gray area. (photo: Norwegian Epic in the Azores, by Andre Moura)Compliance with the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006 (MLC 2006), coming into force in August, will be a shared responsibility among cruise lines and recruiters, according to Johan Oyen, director of cruise operations for the Norwegian Seamen’s Union (NSU) and head of the Cruise Ship Task Force for the International Transportation Federation (ITF).

Oyen said that most cruise lines already meet or exceed the standards set by the MLC, although the social security aspect is still a gray area.

At Nautilus International, General Secretary Mark Dickinson said that the MLC sets goals, offers some flexibility, and creates dialogue between shipowners and employees. “The convention calls for continuous improvement, which will be an ongoing process,” he said.

Dr. Conrado Oca, president of AMOSUP, the union of Filipino seafarers, said that ratification of the MLC had been a major goal. He added: “Of course, we will continue to work with our social partners to ensure that the Philippines complies with the MLC especially in the areas of financial and social protection of our seafarers.”

According to a statement issued by the Cruise Lines International Association to Cruise Industry News, the industry maintains strict workplace standards set by the IMO and the ILO, and supports strong worker protection for crew members, including the MLC.

Tino Hensel, chairman of the European Cruise Council labor sub-committee, director of the European Cruise Academy (Rostock), and director of human resources for AIDA Cruises, issued the following statement: “The European Cruise Council welcomes the ILO’s Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) 2006 to be set in force in August 2013, as it comprehensively sets the seafarers’ working and living conditions on an equal international basis, following SOLAS, STCW and MARPOL as the other pillars of the international maritime regulatory framework. The MLC 2006 is an important milestone in improving working and living conditions for seafarers all over the world.

Oyen pointed out that the MLC does not go beyond what already existed, but represents a compilation of different conventions, ratifies them and makes them enforceable. “MLC 2006 is becoming a document similar to SOLAS,” he added.

“Issues deal with social security and the cost of these programs,” Oyen continued. “Most if not all collective bargaining agreements entered into by an ITF affiliate have more social programs than what is required as a minimum. Therefore the increased cost to those cruise lines that have entered into collective bargaining agreements with an ITF affiliate should be quite small.”

The MLC will attack another issue, however, according to Oyen, who said: “There might still be some cruise lines that pay seafarers based on their nationality instead of just based on their position. This would be a violation of the convention, which states there shall be equal renumeration for work of equal value for all seafarers employed on the same ship without discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.”

There are some gray areas. For instance, Oyen explained that cruise lines must meet three out of nine social security requirements regarding sick pay, hospitalization, disability coverage, death benefits, maternity leave and more. It will be the responsibility of the respective flag states to monitor compliance.

The IMO has established a tripartite committee to look at the interpretations of the new rules. The committee, which will only start working in 2014, will be composed of flag state members, making up half of the committee; one fourth shipowners and one fourth seafarers.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2012-2013

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