The call to the Ministry of Transport to listen to the position of the FPRMT on the issue of employment of foreign seafarers on Russian vessels

The Russian Trilateral Commission on the Regulation of Social and Labor Relations sent for execution to the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation  the extract from the minutes of the meeting of the Working Group on labor market development and  public employment facilitation, held on November, 23.  

The letter calls the Ministry to take into consideration  the message of Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Maritime Transport Workers (FPRMT) and the Seafarers'  Union of Russia (SUR) Yuri Sukhorukov on the need to cancel cases when shipowners are exempted from obtaining work permits for foreign seafarers on Russian ships.

Additionally, the Ministry of Transport was asked to note the position of the Federation about the lack of accurate  and comprehensive statistics that would make it possible to assess the scale of recruitment of foreigners as crew members of Russian ships. 

Further, the Ministry was offered to hold a multi-agency meeting with representatives of the FPRMT, the Russian Chamber of Shipping,  the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot), the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic (Minvostokrazvitiya),  the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and to discuss the possibility to restrict recruitment of foreign seafarers for work as crew members of Russian ships. Also, the issue of the employment of Russian seafarers within the national maritime labor market was recommended to be included into the Russian Trilateral Commission's priority action plan scheduled for the first half of 2021.

Recall that speaking at the meeting of the Russian Trilateral Commission's Working Group which was held on November, 23, Yuri Sukhorukov addressed the problem that threatens the employment of Russian seafarers in their own country, where shipowners can secure jobs  for no more than 50% of Russian seafarers - even without additional competition from foreign labor. 

So, although the Russian legislation provides for a special procedure for issuing work permits for foreign seafarers on ships under the flag of the Russian Federation, they should be issued by the central apparatus of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and not by its territorial bodies. 

Moreover, such work permits should be subject the Rossmorrechflot decision stating that recruitment of a foreigner is not detrimental to employment of Russian seafarers. In addition, while issuing such permits the organization should take into account the opinion of the trade union - this requirement is ignored in some laws that have already been adopted or are under development now.

This includes,  in particular, the Federal Law "On the territories of advanced socio-economic development in the Russian Federation" and "On the free port of Vladivostok", which provide for exemption of resident employers, including shipowners, from obtaining the necessary permits, as well as the draft laws "On free ports in the Russian Federation" and "On state support for entrepreneurial activity in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation ". The union's objections to the inadmissibility of such preferences for shipowners has not been taken into consideration.

In addition, the previous procedure for preparation and issuance of  Rosmorrechflot decisions allowing the employment of foreigners was canceled  in 2016, and the new one has not been adopted to this day. This  threatens the very functioning of the permission-based regime, when without such decisions it is simply impossible to obtain a work permit for  foreign seafarer. This could serve as a loophole for employers to take advantage of the legislative flaw to recruit foreigners in violation of the law.

In view of all that, the FPRMT voiced the need to get rid of legislative exemptions for shipowners to obtain work permits for foreigners on Russian ships, as well as to develop a procedure for issuance of Rosmorrechflot decisions.

Besides, in his report, Sukhorukov noted some other circumstances  that negatively affect the state of Russian seafarers employment within  the national maritime labor market. The include, for example, the renewed practice of transferring Russian ships under foreign jurisdiction and the issuance by the Russian government of cabotage navigation permits  for foreign ships. Therefore, the  Russian Trilateral Commission working group agreed on the importance of discussing the cancellation of exemptions for shipowners and also deemed it necessary to take a broader look at the issue in whole and examine  the problems of employment of Russian seafarers within the national labor market during a future meeting of the  Russian Trilateral Commission.

The Russian trade union of seafarers notes that the attention with which the RTK reacted to the problem voiced by the FPRMT, raises hope for the necessary changes in the legislation. We will continue to inform the seafarers about further consideration of this issue, said Valery Nefedov, chief legal expert.