Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two for me, one for me

From my travels I have observed an imbalance in the UK system of licensing and wages, I have not experienced it myself (at least in the negative sense) but I am aware it exist. The article below brings it out in the open. For some in other parts of the world, this system of varying pay for varying locations of home smells of discrimination. Perhaps it the norm from the receiving end, for some the norm from the giving end; personally I am of the opinion that a person who holds the same license as the next guy, should have the same treatment, but hey maybe I am naive. What do you think?

Martin


Chamber warns on ‘precipitous’ change to race relations law


To ensure the British shipping industry stays competitive, it is essential that the Government finds a way of maintaining UK shipowners’ ability to employ seafarers from countries where living costs are lower than in Britain at rates of pay appropriate to the countries in which they live and maintain their homes and families.

Failure to do so would seriously threaten the remarkable British shipping revival experienced since the introduction of tonnage tax in 2000, and could result in hundreds of ships being taken out of the British fleet and re-registered under other flags.

The Chamber is awaiting the Government’s response to its recent consultation on proposals to amend Section 9 of the Race Relations Act 1976, which currently allows seafarers recruited abroad to be paid at different rates than those recruited in the UK. The Government is also proposing a Single Equality Act to consolidate its existing anti-discrimination legislation on grounds of race, gender, disability and age and harmonise definitions and scope of application. This too could have implications for shipping trading to the UK.

The Chamber accepts the Government’s view that – as currently written – section 9 is in conflict with European anti discrimination law, as it allows pay discrimination against nationals of other
EU member states, but warns against the removal of the exemption before other solutions have been put in place.

Operators of UK-registered ships do not discriminate on any grounds other than nationality/domicile nor in any other way than pay. The same high standards relating to safety and health, hours of work and living and working conditions apply to all seafarers working on UK-registered ships, and compliance with those standards is monitored effectively by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Differences in wage rates applied by shipowners are based on the costs of living in seafarers’ countries of domicile, and as a result – even when lower than the pay rates enjoyed by British seafarers – their wages are on a par with some of the most highly-paid professionals, such as doctors and judges, in their home countries. This is a very different issue from employment
within the UK, the ships on which these seafarers work may never even call at a British port.

There is no prospect that a change to the present arrangements will increase job opportunities for UK seafarers. If anything, it will have the opposite effect.

The employment of seafarers is subject to global competitive pressures – far more so than in many other industries – which would not be reduced in any way by the imposition of laws requiring pay
parity between seafarers resident in the UK and those resident in other EU member states.

UK-registered ships that trade internationally are invariably in direct competition with foreign operators, who are not faced with any restrictions as to pay rates. Even if the Government were to
remove pay differentials in respect of other EEA Member and designated state nationals only, such a move would put at least 300 UK-registered ships at serious risk of being flagged out. It is likely that the majority of operators of these ships would also seek to replace their EEA/designated state nationals with seafarers from third world countries.

This would clearly be counter to the intent of any change in legislation, and would prove detrimental not only to the Government’s policy of growing the UK fleet but also for the national economies of the EEA member and designated states of origin of the seafarers concerned, whose
seafarers might face increasing difficulties in finding employment.

It could also discourage operators from retaining UK ownership and/or management of these vessels. Were there to be an exodus of shipping interests from the UK, the effects on the UK’s foreign warnings capacity would be very strongly felt.

Additionally, the European Commission Green Paper “Towards a Maritime Policy for the Union: A European Vision for the Oceans and Seas” acknowledged that seafarers are sometimes paid on
“home/residence conditions” even where EC law on freedom of movement of workers applies. It stated that this gives rise to complex issues that need further consideration at EU level, in close
cooperation with social partners.

In the light of this, it would, in the Chamber’s view, be entirely inappropriate and precipitous for the UK Government to propose amendments to the Race Relations Act whilst the issue remains unresolved at European level. Shipping is a global business and therefore must be seen in that wider context to ensure the industry stays buoyant in a ferociously competitive market.

Please send letters and comments to Jeremy Harrison at jeremy.harrison@british-shipping.org

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Right Honorable Stevedore

This article really brings to light the excess and imbalance of security scrutiny placed on people involved in shipping. This articles deals with port workers, but just imagine how much less rights seagoing personnel have. This reflects a situation in Canada, but I am sure many other countries have similar situations of "security lunacy".

Martin

Port workers and their spouses face more scrutiny than cabinet ministers

DANIEL LEBLANC, With a report from Paul Koring, May 13, 2008

OTTAWA -- New rules are forcing Canadian port workers to reveal details about their current and ex-spouses to obtain security clearance, which is a more stringent requirement than the one faced by the country's ministers.

As the Harper government deals with a furor over the former girlfriend of its Foreign Affairs Minister, critics are arguing that some federal workers face more scrutiny than the cabinet members who are responsible for their work.

Police don't look at spouses when they do a minister's background check, but recent rules force federally regulated port workers seeking to work in specially designated zones to provide the date and place of birth of their spouses. In addition, port workers have to provide data on former spouses going back five years.

"Any minister would have access to a great deal more confidential and sensitive information than any of my members," said Tom Dufresne, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada. "We certainly shouldn't have to undergo any deeper background check than a minister of the Crown would," he said.

During Question Period, the opposition raised security concerns over Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier's former girlfriend's ties to biker gangs, arguing that ministers should have to answer for their spouses.

A number of senior federal officials reminisced in recent days about the rigour of their security checks, saying that police interviewed everyone from family members to their cleaning lady. In that context, many people in Ottawa are surprised that ministers don't face the same checks.

"There are extensive investigations into the spouses of senior bureaucrats, journalists who accompany ministers abroad and even people who work as assistant cooks in fiscal centres," Bloc Québécois MP Serge Ménard said in the Commons.

"How can we explain that for ministers, especially for a minister of foreign affairs, that there is such laxity?" Mr. Ménard said.

He said ministers bring home confidential documents and it's important for them to know that checks have been made on their family members.

The Harper government, however, continued to argue yesterday that it does not need to make any security assessment of its ministers' spouses. Mr. Bernier's former girlfriend, Julie Couillard, lived with a biker who was killed execution-style and another one who turned police informant in the 1990s.

Mr. Bernier and Ms. Couillard started going out last year, and broke up in recent months.

"Canadians overwhelmingly believe that people's private lives should be their private lives," said Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper described opposition leaders as gossipy busybodies for raising the issue.

And Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told CTV's Question Period on the weekend that cabinet ministers and MPs simply have to file conflict-of-interest reports that include the financial holdings of their spouses.

Mr. Dufresne said his union is fighting the new rules for port workers in court, arguing they are "over the top" and infringe on Charter rights. He said the government could meet its objectives by adding fences and security guards at the country's ports, or increase the electronic monitoring of containers.

Federal officials confirmed that they recently introduced a new security clearance program for port workers in sensitive zones, saying they were introduced to prevent criminal activity and terrorist acts in the country's ports.

Cabinet ministers in other countries undergo checks that include their family members; this includes the United States, where thorough checks are made before appointments are announced.