Five years ago, the SIU deftly defied national trends in other organizations’ collective bargaining agreements by securing standard freightship and tanker contracts that featured annual wage increases and maintained benefits – and didn’t lose a single shipboard job.
The SIU has delivered a repeat performance this year. Following negotiations with vessel owners and operators that concluded in mid-May, the union last month began presenting new, five-year standard contracts for rank-and-file consideration. Like its predecessors, the new contracts boast yearly wage increases and maintain all benefits while also keeping every job.
Reaction from Seafarers has been overwhelmingly favorable. As this edition of the LOG went to press, voting continued on the new pacts; but, based on tallies from dozens of SIU-crewed ships and from special meetings and regular membership meetings conducted at the halls, the contracts clearly were headed for ratification. Nearly all of the votes were in favor of the agreements, which take effect July 1 of this year and run through June 2022.
“The contracts are really good,” said Recertified Bosun Ritche Acuman. “Everybody seems happy with it. I haven’t heard any complaints. I like that the wages go up every year and we still have the same benefits.”
ACU Mohamed Wasel also pointed to the annual wage increases as a contract highlight. “But the whole thing is very good, it seems to me,” he said.
“One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is that because the Seafarers Plans are in such strong shape, we were able to focus on economics and putting more money in members’ pockets,” stated SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker, who teamed up with SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez to lead the union’s effort. “We also successfully turned back company efforts to expand permanency and institute selectivity.”
He added, “The overall negotiations were a collaborative effort that benefited from the strong working relationships and trust that’s been developed over the years. The contracts themselves show an appreciation for the quality and dedication of SIU crews and they clearly reflect input from Seafarers.”
SIU President Michael Sacco addressed all of the negotiators immediately after the final session wrapped up May 18 at SIU headquarters in Camp Springs, Maryland. He credited them with hammering out agreements that benefit all concerned. (For these negotiations, the vessel operators work together as members of the American Maritime Association, abbreviated as AMA.)
In his monthly membership report, Tricker included the following contract highlights (among others):
– Company contributions for continued training at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Maryland.
– All reasonable travel expenses to and from the vessel will be paid upon submission of receipts.
– Increases to wages, overtime, vacation benefits, Seafarers Money Purchase Pension Plan benefits and all other wage-related items of three percent on July 1, 2017; three percent on July 1, 2018; two percent on July 1, 2019; two percent on July 1, 2020; and four percent on July 1, 2021.
– With the goal of improving personal safety as well as safeguarding the environment, and in response to increasing regulatory pressures, trip tours have been increased from 12 to 24 months.
– Within 30 days of contract ratification, the union and the AMA will establish a “connectivity committee” that focuses on shipboard email and internet access. The subsequent timeline for the committee calls for detailed studies of existing connectivity as well as recommendations to improve it.
– Significant attention is given to the newly revamped steward department curriculum at the Paul Hall Center, which is designed to promote mariners’ wellbeing while keeping up with the latest technology. Among many other stipulations, the contract calls for the related committee (which includes representatives from the union, the school and the AMA) to review its effect and make adjustments as warranted.
– Signatory companies will carry Paul Hall Center apprentices when so requested, if berths are available.
Negotiations for the standard contracts began early this year. Tricker added that throughout the process, the union received strong administrative support from SIU contracts department Executive Assistant Danielle Szepesi.
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