SUR raises hot points at the meeting with transport minister


The Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation, Maxim Sokolov, hold a meeting with the leaders of trade unions of transport cluster, including the representatives of the Seafarers' Union of Russia (SUR) and Dockers' Union of Russia (DUR). Such meetings have already become an annual tradition. Such meetings represent a good opportunity to discuss more urgent issues. This year SUR touched upon such topics as marine medicine, protection of national labour market and Russian seafarers' wages.

The main topic was the protection of seafarers' interests on the national labour market. SUR First Deputy Chairman Igor Kovalchuk started his statement with that particular question. The seafarers union has tried to draw the attention of state authorities to this problem many times, but their arguments have not been recognized. Meanwhile, this issue remains one of the most controversial when it comes to good quality jobs.

Let's remind the history of the issue: since 2002, the licensing procedure for attracting foreign citizens to work in Russia, including an employment of seafarers on ocean going ships under Russian flag, was in effect. It was established by the National Law "On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens". However, in 2014 the law "On the territories of advanced social and economic development in the Russian Federation" was adopted, which included to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation the Art. 351.5. This Article exempts employers-residents of such territories from the need to obtain labour permits for foreign workers. These provisions would cover the shipowners as well providing they are considered as the residents.

The similar privilege is granted to the residents of the so-called free port of Vladivostok – according to the same-name national law adopted in 2015. Actually, such legislative initiatives allow to employ foreign seamen on Russian vessels without effective control, thereby to reduce the employment of Russian seamen. SUR believes this is in contrary to Regulation 2.8 on career development and opportunities for seafarers' employment of the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006.

The union proposes not only to cease the issuing such preferences to Russian shipowners, but also to ban the employment of foreign seamen on Russian vessels engaged in exploration, production and shipping of hydrocarbon products on the continental shelf of the Russian Federation. Moreover, the SUR considers that if foreign vessels are involved in such activities, their owners should hire Russian seafarers.

Over the past two years there were made numerous appeals, including the SUR Congress resolution on this issue, to the president and the government of the Russian Federation, but all of them have remained unheeded.

Unfortunately, relevant agencies, with the exception of the Ministry of Labor of Russia, do not share these concerns of the trade union.

Igor Kovalchuk asked Maxim Sokolov to call a meeting involving the concerned departments of the Transport Ministry, and thereby to give the SUR opportunity to directly discuss possible acceptable solutions of this problem.

Another painful topic for Russian seafarers is wages.

Despite the fact that, in general, the average wages of seafarers working on vessels under the Russian flag are relatively high, unscrupulous shipowners often establish only a minimum wages in seafarers' employment contracts. However, if the shipowner suffers financial problems, the seamen become victims of this scheme and even when applying to the court they can only obtain those payments that are specified in papers. SUR asked the Ministry of Transport for assistance in preventing such practices.

And of course it was impossible not to touch upon the hoary problem of pre-employment medical examinations of seafarers. Let us to remind that the requirements of the STCW Convention regarding the medical examinations of seafarers should be implemented by the 1st of July. Nevertheless, in Russia we still have not any list of certified medical institutions or physicians authorized to conduct medical examinations of seafarers. SUR doubts that all the regulations required would be in place by that date. In this case the Russian seafarers' jobs will be under risk and Russian shipowners could encounter additional difficulties. In general, this is one of the problems arising from the lack of specialized marine medicine. As it turned out during the recent parliamentary hearings in the State Duma on issues of medical services on transport, there is not even an educational standard for a marine doctor in Russia.

Igor Kovalchuk also proposed to resume the work of the task force group on the pilot activities established under the Ministry of Transport last year.

The meeting was attended by the Chairman of the Dockers' Union of Russia (DUR) Vasiliy Kozarenko. The DUR, along with the SUR and other trade unions are the members of Federation of maritime transport workers' unions.

The main issue that concerns the DUR is the procedure of Special assessment of working conditions of machine operators (dockers-machine operators). Before this meeting, the corresponding letter in support of the Union's position was sent to the Ministry of Transport.

The letter suggests to support the proposal of the DUR concerning the need to develop the features of Special assessment of working conditions (SAWC) of machine operators (dockers-machine operators) and to direct the lettеr with the same proposal to the Ministry of Labour.

To implement this initiative, machine operators (dockers-machine operators) should be included in the List of jobs in organizations with certain types of activities, in respect of which the Special assessment of working conditions is carried out taking into account the features established by the authorized federal executive body.

"Since a large number of the representatives of transport trade unions took part in the meeting, each speaker was given just a few minutes for the report," Igor Kovalchuk noted. - “Nevertheless, we expect to continue discussion with the Ministry of Transport on the crucial issues of Russian seamen”.