Negotiations on the global minimum wage for seafarers have broken down after seafarers’ unions and shipowners failed to agree on a figure following two days of discussions at the International Labor Organization.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which represents seafarers, was seeking an increase of $1.40 per day from the current monthly minimum wage of $641 last set in 2018, which equates to $683 per month or a 6.5% increase per month from January 2022.
During the discussions, shipowners presented an agreement to increase the basic minimum wage by 3% for seafarers worldwide for 3 years. The offer would increase the monthly minimum wage from $641 to $645 as of January 2022, from $645 to $648 as of January 2023 and from $660 as of January 2024.
The seafarers’ unions rejected the offer, which under the ILO process would mean that able seafarers will now not be entitled to a minimum wage increase for 2 years, according to the International Chamber of Shipping, which is the organization representing shipowners.
“Unfortunately, seafarers’ representatives rejected a generous offer from shipowners in these unprecedented times,” said Natalie Shaw, director of employment affairs for the International Chamber of Shipping. “We went further than we had anticipated, but the offer was still rejected. However, our door is always open.”
The ITF had argued for a minimum wage of $683 per month as of January 2022, which would have been consistent with the ILO formula set in 2018 (of a $1.40 per day increase from the current monthly minimum wage of $641).
“For the second time in the long history of these negotiations, shipowners and seafarers have failed to agree on a revised minimum wage for seafarers. And that is entirely the fault of the shipowners, who have behaved with an astonishing lack of self-awareness and respect for seafarers’ sacrifices, especially over the last 14 months,” said Mark Dickinson, spokesperson for the Seafarers’ Group at the ILO and vice-chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section.
The ITF said the lack of agreement means it will now unilaterally advise the ILO on the minimum wage rate.
“We maintain that the revised ILO minimum wage for an able seafarer is a minimum of $683 per month from January 1, 2022 and will advise our affiliates and the ILO Governing Body accordingly. We are now making preparations to engage strongly with industry stakeholders and society at large to promulgate our views. We will use the extensive networks and media profile established during the crew change crisis to support our campaign for pay equity for seafarers,” Dickinson said.
“Our door remains open to further discussions if common sense prevails,” he added.