August 9, 2010
ITF set to overhaul FOC policy
Dock workers' and seafarers' unions have voted to accept an overhaul of the ITF's flag of convenience (FOC) policy.
The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is an international federation of 759 unions representing over 4,600,000 transport workers in 155 countries. It has been been campaigning against flags of convenience since 1948. It's had no success in persuading shipowners to return to national flags. It's had more success in gaining better pay and conditions for seafarers on board FOC ships.
The planned overhaul in FOC policy will be the first major update since 1998 and will be known as the Mexico City Policy if it is ratified by the ITF plenary congress later this week.
The new policy that was approved at yesterday's joint dockers' and seafarers' meeting sets out to create a better balance between unions in beneficial ownership and labor supply countries in order to provide improvements in the protection for seafarers.
ITF maritime coordinator Steve Cotton said the new policy would continue to establish closer relationships between seafarers and dockers and their unions and develop the methods that could be used to advance their interests.
He added: "The Mexico City Policy begins to address long-standing concerns about non-domiciled seafarers. It includes an understanding that the ITF's engagement with national flag vessels is in partnership and in consultation with unions in those countries and reflects their concerns about protecting their own members."
Mr. Cotton told the joint meeting that the policy drew on recent discussions on the ITF's organizing strategy with the aim of building on the successes of the long standing FOC campaign and of making it even more effective.
The meeting identified cabotage as an area where more work is needed, an initiative that received much support from unions in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain and the U.S.
Other updates to the ITF's policy reflect the increasingly important role of the new global pay bargaining arrangements with international maritime employers.
Also updated is the ITF's Seafarers' Charter, which seeks to ensure that seafarers covered by ITF agreements have democratic rights within their unions,within the ITF and on their ships.
Mr. Cotton said that the Mexico City Policy was the outcome of an almost four-year, union-driven exercise to enable the ITF's FOC campaign to be run effectively, accountably and efficiently in the fast changing world of modern shipping.
For those with the fortitude to plow through it, an ITF conference document on the issue can be accessed HERE