SIU of Canada Scores Major Wins

 

July 2015

 

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The SIU of Canada is reporting significant wins in the union’s ongoing efforts to protect mariners’ rights as well as Canadian cabotage laws.

 

In late May, the union secured work for its members aboard four different vessels sailing in the domestic trade. Political action by the SIU of Canada on behalf of rank-and-file members proved essential after foreign-flag companies got waivers to transport domestic cargo.

 

SIU of Canada President Jim Given described the union’s effort as a twoyear fight “to have Canadian temporary foreign worker rules enforced in Canadian maritime cabotage.”

 

Given said the union received word May 27 that the Hong Kong-flagged Rotterdam was given a waiver from the Canadian Transportation Agency to run sulfuric acid between two Canadian ports on the East Coast. “As no Canadian vessel was available to move this cargo this was not a shock to us, but we have always maintained that just because we have no Canadian-flag vessel available, that does not mean we don’t have crew available,” Given stated. “Under Canadian law any foreign national wanting to work in Canada must obtain a work permit. For whatever reasons, we knew this law was not being applied fairly to the maritime industry. Companies were fast tracking the process to skirt around the edges of the law, causing economic hardship to our members.”

 

However, immediately upon learning of the Rotterdam, the union immediately contacted all government departments involved in the situation.

 

“Our message was clear,” Given noted. “There is absolutely no reason to issue work permits to foreign crew when SIU members are ready, willing and able to crew this vessel.”

 

The pressure paid off, as the Rotterdam sat idle in port for five days while the operator worked with union officials to hire a Canadian crew. At the same time, the union learned of another Hong Kong-flagged ship, the Chemical Aquarius, which had received a waiver to run clean product from Quebec to Ontario on the Great Lakes. Again the union spoke out and quickly secured the billets on the Chemical Aquarius.

 

The good news didn’t end there. When an SIU of Canada-contracted company brought in two Panama-flagged Panamax tankers for temporary domestic runs, they agreed to hire SIU crews. And, Given stated, SIU crews will remain with the ships when they go back to the deep sea sector, where they will reflag Canadian.

 

“This is a major breakthrough in our fight to save Canadian cabotage and Canadian seafaring jobs,” Given concluded. “The message is loud and clear: If you want to trade in Canadian waters, no matter what your flag is, you are going to hire Canadian Seafarers. If you plan on profiting from Canadian maritime cabotage you are going to share those profits with Canadian Seafarers. This is but one step in our battle to strengthen Canadian cabotage, but it is a big step. Government and labor worked hand in hand to make sure Canadian jobs stayed Canadian!”

 

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