GENEVA (ILO News) - The 29 th session of the Joint Maritime Commission today announced a major agreement, known as the Geneva Accord, designed to improve safety and working conditions in the maritime industry.
It also agreed to update the ILO minimum wage for seafarers from $435 to $450 with effect from 1 January 2002 and to $465 as of 1 January 2003. The ILO minimum wage takes into consideration a formula which reflects changes in consumer prices and exchange rates against the US dollar in 48 maritime countries and areas.
Participants to the session, including representatives of shipowners and seafarers, resolved that "the emergence of the global labour market for seafarers has effectively transformed the shipping industry into the world's first genuinely global industry, which requires a global response with a body of global standards applicable to the whole industry."
The week-long session agreed that the existing ILO maritime instruments should be consolidated and brought up-to date by means of a new, single "framework Convention" on maritime labour standards.
The meeting recommended an institutional basis for a review of all aspects of shipping and expressed its concern that the qualification of a ship as sub-standard has so far been based only on the requirements established by the International Maritime Organization. It requested that all necessary measures be taken to ensure that applicable social and labour standards were also given due consideration in this context.
Today's agreement represents a major departure in ILO standard-setting practice. With a view to ensuring acceptable standards of working and living conditions for seafarers of all nationalities and in all merchant fleets, the approach envisages a more logical and flexible structure for maritime labour instruments and a more streamlined process for keeping them up-to-date.
The Commission was chaired by Ms. Birgit Solling Olsen, representing the ILO Governing Body and Mr. Dierk Lindemann and Brian Orrell were spokespersons for the Shipowners' and Seafarers' groups respectively.
The Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia, applauded the work of the Commission as "an excellent example of international social dialogue in practice." He highlighted that the new integrated approach to standards provided an opportunity to take different interests into account, while remaining faithful to the Organization's values.
At the close of the meeting, representatives of the International Shipping Federation (ISF) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) on behalf of shipowners and seafarers respectively said:
"The Geneva Accord is the first important step on a difficult road towards ensuring that our uniquely international industry has in place an effective body of globally applied labour standards. We are proud to be the torchbearers for the ILO's campaign to promote decent work the world over."
The JMC called on the ILO Governing Body to authorize a programme of tripartite meetings (shipowners, seafarers and governments) to prepare for an ILO Maritime Conference in 2005 to adopt the anticipated new "framework Convention".
The Commission also expressed deep concern about recent arrests of seafarers, in particular ship captains, following maritime accidents, even before any investigation had taken place and called on the ILO Director-General to bring these concerns to the attention of all ILO member States.