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Governments come under pressure at UN and ILO to designate seafarers as key workers

9 December 2020

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) says that governments are under increasing pressure to designate seafarers as key workers following landmark resolutions at the United Nations and the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) governing body.

The UN resolution calls on national governments to take urgent action to resolve the crew change crisis.

'The adoption of Indonesia’s resolution by the UN General Assembly has put seafarers and their ongoing struggle firmly at the centre of the governments' attention as the consumer holiday season approaches and industry concern over potential forced labour in their supply chains reaches new highs,' ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said.

'We now have the full authority of the United Nations General Assembly saying that if countries want to participate in the global economy, then they must recognise this global workforce as key workers. Governments are starting to realise that they need to act now if they want to avoid being blamed for this pressing humanitarian – and potentially economic – crisis. The heat is on.'

On Tuesday the governing body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also adopted a resolution on key worker status.

Mark Dickinson, Nautilus general secretary and Seafarers' Group spokesperson at the ILO said a comprehensive draft for the resolution was supplied by the social partners. This draft provided more detail on what governments need to do give 'key worker' status real meaning for seafarers.

'We congratulate the member states who voted in favour of the resolution,' Mr Dickinson said. 'We will seek to make governments give real effect to the resolution's intentions. We hope that the call to action will mean states now act as champions for the cause on resolving this epic humanitarian crisis.

'This ILO resolution throws down the gauntlet to flag states to do their jobs properly as regulators to enforce seafarers' human and labour rights. If they fail to uphold the Maritime Labour Convention on their ships, seafaring unions and our allies will be calling them out,' Mr Dickinson said.