SIU Official Delivers Maritime’s Message at Prestigious Harvard Law Labor Forum


March 2013


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When the head of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program (LWP) wanted expert input on globalization’s effect on workers, she turned to the maritime industry – and to the SIU.


SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel spoke at the Ivy League school in Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 5 at the invitation of Dr. Elaine Bernard, executive director of the LWP. Heindel also serves as chair of the International Transport Workers’ Federation Seafarers’ Section; the SIU is an ITF affiliate.


Heindel covered many topics during his 90-minute address including the ITF flag-of-convenience (FOC) campaign, the International Bargaining Forum, piracy, the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) 2006 and much more. The topics’ common thread was safeguards for workers. Several dozen people were in the audience, including guests and Labor and Worklife enrollees.


The program itself is described as “Harvard University’s forum for research and teaching on the world of work and its implications for society…. The LWP brings together scholars and policy experts from a variety of disciplines to analyze critical labor issues in the law, economy, and society. The LWP also provides unique education for labor leaders throughout the world via the oldest executive training program at Harvard University, the Harvard Trade Union Program, founded in 1942. As a multidisciplinary research and policy network, the LWP organizes projects and programs that seek to understand critical changes in labor markets and labor law, and to analyze the role of unions, business, and government as they affect the world of work. By engaging scholars, students, and members of the labor community, the program coordinates legal, educational, and cultural activities designed to improve the quality of work life.”


Bernard is no stranger to the maritime industry, and she was a featured speaker in late 2011 at the ITF Women’s Conference on Leadership, Strategy and Organizing, which took place at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, located in Piney Point, Md. In her invitation to Heindel for last month’s event, she noted that the Harvard Trade Union Program is a six-week, intensive, residential program “designed to extend to union leaders the same advanced leadership education that Harvard offers to executive-level individuals in business and government.”


During his remarks, which included a questions-and-answers session, Heindel explained that the ITF has 708 affiliated unions collectively representing more than 4.5 million transport workers (many of them mariners) in 154 countries. The federation’s FOC campaign dates back more than 60 years and remains a focal point.


“These flags, including the largest register in the world (Panama), allow shipowners, who have no genuine link to the flag state, to register their ships there in order to avoid the taxation and regulation which their own countries would impose,” Heindel pointed out. “FOCs have a disproportionately high percentage of casualties and port state control detentions with respect to their share of the world fleet. They are mainly registers which exercise little or no control over their owners and who do not adequately exercise their responsibilities as flag states with regard to International Labor Organization (ILO) or International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions and recommendations.”


The ITF Seafarers’ Section, he continued, is an active and effective ally for affiliated unions and individual seafarers, both on its own and through cooperative work with the ILO, IMO and other international agencies. “We also maintain a network of over 130 ITF inspectors around the world to enforce our policies and international regulations. Through the FOC campaign we impose ITF special agreements for FOC ships which specify minimum conditions of employment for crews, including wages, benefits and health and safety provisions.


“To further our reach, in 1999 we established the International Bargaining Forum, which provides a collective bargaining process rather than the ITF unilaterally imposing a benchmark agreement and then going out and industrially implementing it.”


As in other industries, Heindel said, globalization “has helped to fuel this rush to the bottom” in maritime. “In an increasingly fiercely competitive shipping market, each new FOC state is forced to promote itself by offering the lowest possible fees and minimum regulation. In the same way, shipowners are forced to look for the cheapest and least regulated ways of running their vessels in order to compete.”


In discussing the MLC, Heindel described it as “one of the most important pieces of international legislation that has been adopted in nearly 100 years. To draw a comparison, as important as the Davis-Bacon Act is to U.S. construction workers, the Maritime Labor Convention is just as significant to international seafarers and to responsible shipowners.”



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