What my union does for me

Members of Seafarers Union of Russia (SUR)  explain what they get in return for their membership fees.

Alexey Gordeyev, chief officer in a Cypriot company

"When I was a cadet, I used to hear about the trade union from time to time but never thought about it. Later, in 2008, the crisis started, and with it there were strikes, demonstrations and other actions. I learned that it was the union that organised and coordinated these actions, and that it was the union that helped seafarers to get their wages paid. When I started working on ships I finally understood the importance of minimum labour standards and wages in the maritime industry. Those standards are also established due to the work of unions".

Maxim Derevenko, cadet at the Admiral Makarov State Maritime Academy

"I have not turned to the union for help as yet. However, guys from the senior classes keep telling us that it does a lot of really useful things. The union is an association of workers, and when people join, it's easier for them to solve their problems and to get better working conditions together".

Help in an emergency

On 28 August 2012, in the Gulf of Guinea, near the coast of Togo, pirates attacked the Energy Centurion (Greek flag). One of the crew members, cadet Vyacheslav Prudnikov, 20, needed medical assistance for an injured leg. In a Lome hospital, he had to undergo an operation and follow-up surgery several months later. He comments: "When we returned to Novorossiysk we got financial aid from the SUR. I also got my sick pay thanks to the union. SUR officers gave me advice on what I should do, where to go, and what my rights were in this case. To be honest, I started to think that I was going to end up with nothing. So I'm glad that the union is there."

Sport relief

Second mate of the Moskva Reka Yuriy Dmitriev has been visiting the SUR's sports centre in Novorossiysk for several years. "I come here to enrol in the exercise programme first thing after returning ashore", he says. "Believe me, I am in much better shape now. Exercises even helped me to quit smoking!" Yuriy's wife has also been a regular at the centre for the past six years.

Gratitude for support

Tatiana lvaschhenko's husband, a motorman on the Uran, was a healthy man when he left for China in 2008, his ship's regular destination. He suddenly started to lose weight rapidly and Tatiana, who was a member of the same crew, stayed close to him around the clock. But within a few days this strong man, only a little more than so years old, died while the vessel was sailing from Qinhuangdao to Nantong.

The Chinese death certificate said the seafarer died as a consequence of a disease, which was not specified. In a few days his body and relevant documentation were delivered to their home town ofVanino, in Khabarovsk Krai, where he was buried. Tatiana then applied to the insurance company for compensation.

The insurers played for time. First they said the death could ITF Seafarers' Helpline +44 (0)20 8253 om have resulted from some chronic disease. Then they noticed an error in translation of the death certificate. And at long last they tried to take the case to a Moscow court, even though it was clear that the widow wasn't able to cover the travel expenses.

However, Tatiana received help from the SUR. In Moscow, thanks to the defence of a union lawyer, the rights of the widow to compensation were successfully established.