During 2021, union ship inspectors recovered more than USD $37 million in unpaid wages owed to seafarers, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has revealed.
he ITF’s 125 inspectors and coordinators completed 7,265 inspections in 2021 to support thousands of seafarers with wage claims and repatriation cases.
It’s not uncommon for crew to be paid the at the wrong rate by a shipowner, or less than the rate set out in the employment agreement covering the ship. Crew can generally work out when they’re being underpaid. And that’s when they contact us. ITF inspectors help seafarers recover what’s owed to them
said Steve Trowsdale, the ITF’s Inspectorate Coordinator.
Altogether, the ITF clawed back USD $37,591,331 in unpaid wages and entitlements from shipowners in 2021. Mr. Trowsdale added the makeup of seafarers’ wage claims was changing: “Concerningly, we’re seeing a rise in the number of seafarers reporting non-payment of wages for periods of two months or longer, which actually meets the ILO’s definition of abandonment.”
Specifically, the ITF reported 85 cases of abandonment to the International Labour Organization (ILO) last year, a historic high. In many of those cases, abandoned crew had already been waiting on several weeks’ or months’ of unpaid wages.
What is more, Mr. Trowsdale noted Inspectors did not let Covid-19 barriers stop them from supporting seafarers in need, instead adapting and finding new ways of working.
In fact, ITF mentioned that as the crew change crisis worsened in early 2021, a flood of requests filled the ITF’s inboxes from crew desperate to sign off and get home.
Covid-related border restrictions were the underlying reason for the crew change crisis, which impacted an estimated 400,000 seafarers at the worst point of the crisis. But on some ships, other more sinister factors were at play in keeping crew from their families.
There is evidence that some shipowners were using Covid-19 as an excuse to keep seafarers working beyond their initial contracts and in complete violation of those seafarers’ human and labour rights
said Mr. Trowsdale.