International Bargaining Forum Reaches 3-Year Agreement


September 2011


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The International Bargaining Forum (IBF), consisting of representatives of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF, representing mariners) and the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG, representing employers), recently announced that it has reached a three-year agreement. The announcement followed negotiations that took place in Miami in late July.


Established in 2003, the IBF is a mechanism through which representatives from maritime labor and management negotiate wages and conditions of employment for mariners serving aboard thousands of ships worldwide.


IBF agreements are only available to ship operating companies that are members of the JNG and only may be signed by ITF-affiliated unions. According to a joint statement, the bargaining was “hard-fought by both sides.” The new pact takes effect in January 2012; it includes annual wage increases, financial incentives to bring more vessels under an IBF agreement, and revisions reflecting the current scourge of piracy. Many other components also are included in the updated agreement, including provisions aimed at helping companies develop disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as helping ensure a steady supply of qualified shipboard manpower.


SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, who serves as chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section, stated, “The last few years have put a great pressure on both sides of the IBF to be seen as acting responsibly in support of both the seafarers and those that employ them. The collapse in the world financial market has led to employers wanting to minimize their cost increases in difficult times and has put pressure on those who represent the seafarers to understand this financial situation, while ensuring that they are protecting the interest and livelihoods of their members. The final agreement that we have reached has demonstrated the ability of the two sides to work together being both constructive and representative. This agreement bears testament to the strength of the IBF process and its ability to reach conclusions in difficult times, on difficult issues.”


Giles Heimann, secretary-general of the International Maritime Employers’ Committee (IMEC) and joint secretary of the JNG, added, “The final outcome reached by the IBF is both a pragmatic and mutually acceptable agreement for both sides. The IBF system has yet again demonstrated the ability of both sides of the table to work closely together in examining the core issues at hand; and through debate, negotiation, respect for each other’s opinions and understanding, a solution has been found, which allows us all to confirm that we have achieved a good result for our constituents.”


According to the ITF (to which the SIU is affiliated), IBF negotiations are separate from the discussions about the ITF benchmark and other ITF agreements. Negotiations take place every two years for the IBF framework agreement. Once the framework agreement has been negotiated, ITF-affiliated unions begin local negotiations with companies in their country. These local negotiations result in national and sometimes company-wide IBF agreements. While the entitlements may vary slightly, all IBF agreements must be within the IBF framework agreed for the period.


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