Italy’s seafarers take to the streets: “A new law is needed”

Genoa - Italy’s seafarers are descending this morning on Rome’s Ministry of Transport to protest against what they see as a government that is neglectful of their trade.

Genoa - Italy’s seafarers are descending this morning on Rome’s Ministry of Transport to protest against what they see as a government that is neglectful of their trade. At around 10:30, union representatives are expected to meet Minister Graziano Delrio. Their protest - which isn’t related to the one held by maritime workers associations on 15 November last year - marks a return of their unions to the streets, following an almost 20-year hiatus, and is the culmination of a tense state of affairs between workers and the ministry, which has been ongoing since at least last August. The unresolved issue of the new certification regime remains centre stage: the Ministry completed the task of phasing-in thea implementation of globally agreed training standards for seafarers (which were defined by the IMO in 2010) only in August 2016, while a deadline of 1 January 2017 was set for obtaining certification, or risk being barred from taking to sea.

For thousands, then, there only remained four months in which to upgrade their training by registering for costly programmes (up to €5,000), of up to 570-hour duration, clearly something incompatible for those who spend eight months a year at sea. The marine workers’ protest (made up of a patchwork of associations, committees, trade union federations and local unions) resulted in a number of meetings at the Ministry, and some amendments to tweak the process, pushing forward the time requirements for the training upgrades, by one or a few months, depending on the case, but without solving the fundamental problem, especially in the case of more experienced mariners, who would like quicker, and less costly procedures for the basic upgrades. In addition to a resolution to the problem - and perhaps mirroring the conduct of other countries, since the legislation being introduced is international - the unions are now demanding that the government reform marine seafarers legislation, in particular by attributing to deck-work, as well as that in the engine room, the designation of “onerous work”, and, in particular, the establishment of a single seafarers job placement registry, to match supply with demand (thereby avoiding reasons for shipowners to contract foreign workers), and hence, most importantly, establishing a census of Italian maritime workers who are actually operational, something that does not exist today.

“We’ve always had a frank dialogue between the different parties, but the situation requires discussions not only with the training institutions, but also with the government; it needs to give seafarers the same attention it has given to the ports,” said Nino Cortorillo, the national Filt Cgil union secretary. “Official recognition of the onerous, and demanding nature of marine work is necessary. Living conditions on board are hard, even for seamen on deck. It would go a small way in recognizing occupational hazards for a whole class of workers, who have been denied the recognition of asbestos-related exposure, even though they’ve literally lived in it in the thousands,” added Mauro Scognamillo, responsible for marine workers at Fit Cisl Liguria. “The reorganization of marine work designation is necessary, what’s occurring now is that in certain cases the same seafarer appears listed on three different posts at sea at the same time, as the registry is not updated,” concluded Paolo Fantappiè, national secretary for maritime transport at Uiltrasporti. For both sides, it would be a better way to gauge the state of supply and demand.”

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