The IX Congress of the Seafarers’ Union of Russia (SUR) in Saint-Petersburg has finished its work. Delegates representing the interests of marine workers throughout the country summed up the results of their activity for 2016-2021, set goals for the next five years and elected the SUR governing bodies. Those present included invited guests also: top officials of large Russian trade unions, shipping companies and leading maritime educational institutions of our country.
The congress began with a minute of silence devoted to the memory of the SUR members who passed away during the reporting period.
Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Poshivai A.I., Chairman of the ITF Seafarers’ Section Dave Heindel, President of the KTR (Confederation of Labour of Russia) Kravchenko B.E., Deputy Chairman of the FNPR (The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia) Shershukov A.V., Chairman of the ROGWU (Russian Oil, Gas and Construction Workers’ Union) Korchagin A.V. and others addressed the Union with welcoming speech . They congratulated the SUR on the upcoming 30th anniversary and wished the delegates of the congress effective work.
ITF Secretary General Steve Cotton in a video message noted the successful work of the SUR in the context of coronavirus infection that affected the whole world a year and a half ago. Seafarers received comprehensive support in emergency situations thanks to the Union’s efforts: the SUR assisted in arrangement of repatriation, urgent medical evacuation with the participation of Russian authorities and international organizations. In his turn, Steve Cotton emphasized that seafarers, as key figures in the supply chain, should have priority in access to vaccines, as they are on the front-line as well as health workers
In addition, he highlighted the important role of the SUR in the ITF family of trade unions and noted that there are still many ambitious goals ahead: “It's amazing how much we still have to achieve by changing the world, by fostering ports activity in northern Russia and by keeping cargo shipping in order to remain the part of the world's supply chains”, - Steve Cotton said.
Igor Tonkovidov, CEO and Chairman of the Management Board of PAO Sovcomflot, a long-standing social partner of SUR, also highlighted the achievements of the Union: “The maritime industry sees and appreciates the efforts that the SUR representatives, year after year, put in to ensure decent working conditions for seafarers.” He particularly noted the great help the Union has provided to seafarers during the pandemic, the Union’s alive and effective response to every problem that crew members have faced. In his turn, the SCF CEO confirmed their company’s commitment to further improvement of working conditions of all seafarers employed on the company's vessels and of welfare of officers, ratings, family members of seafarers and veterans.
Then Yury Sukhorukov, SUR Chairman, summed up the key results of the outgoing five-year period of the Union’s activity. Among others, he noted that the SUR membership is growing and today it numbers are about 77 000 seafarers. This indicates not only the great strength of the Union and its ability to defend the interests of workers, but also of the sincere trust of seafarers.
He also dwelled on the crisis that has developed in the world in connection with the coronavirus pandemic and has had an extremely negative impact on the maritime workers.
- Crew change crisis remains, perhaps, the main issue of the last almost two years and, most likely, will be acute in the near future, - he said. - Seafarers remain on board in excess of their contracts, they cannot return home in time, since the usual process of crew rotation is disrupted all over the world.
Indeed, more than 400 thousand seafarers could not receive timely replacement after expire of their contracts and had to continue work on board for more than 11 months. Thus, last year and a half, the most of the SUR efforts were directed on addressing crew change issues with shipping companies.
“Over the past 20 months with the participation of SUR 830 seafarers have been repatriated, of which 57 - for medical reasons,” said Yury Sukhorukov.
He also stressed that crew members are still have very limited access to medical assistance in ports of some countries. More than once the Union had to step up efforts to assist the seafarers whose health literally hung by a single thread.
-There were situations when it was a matter of life and death,” added Yury Sukhorukov. - Due to stress and very long contracts, seafarers experienced strokes and heart attacks. There were seven such cases in our practice, but we managed to help crew members: we obtained their signing off in foreign ports and hospitalization.
Thanks to the joint work of SUR and Russian governmental and international maritime organizations, trade unions the situation regarding the crew change has noticeably improved. So, today about 200 thousand crew members remain at sea in excess of the period of their contracts, but the problem is still far from being resolved. The Union, together with foreign counterparts, is determined to continue to press for government attention to the crew change crisis.
In the course of the congress the ceremony of awarding "The SUR Badge of Honor" was also held. Among others it was awarded to the Chairman of SUR Pacific trade union organization Valery Berezinsky, the Labor inspector of SUR Northern territorial organization Igor Kozmin, the captain of the Sovcomflot owned supply vessel "Vitus Bering" Alexei Kravtsov, Deputy Chairman of SUR Baltic territorial organization Alexander Kulakov.
"The SUR Badge of Honor" was awarded on the 30th anniversary of SUR and in recognition of long standing participation in trade union work on protection of labor rights of Russian seafarers.
Several more awardees were unable to attend the ceremony in person and will receive their honorary badges personally.
In addition, were adopted the following documents: the resolutions of the IX SUR Congress on the protection of the rights and interests of young seafarers, "On the protection of the national maritime labor market", "On the implementation of the provisions of the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 into the legislation of the Russian Federation", "On implementation in the Russian Federation of the requirements of international conventions in terms of medical support for seafarers ”. They set out the main plans and goals of the Union for the coming years.
An important outcome of the event was the election of Yury Sukhorukov as the SUR Chairman for the next five years. Along with that the members of SUR Council and Internal Audit Commission were elected.
On the photo - Yury Sukhorukov and Alexey Kravtsov