International Bargaining Forum Reaches Three-Year Agreement

The International Transport Workers' Federation (on behalf of seafarers) and Joint Negotiating Group (employers) have released the following joint press release.

The IBF (International Bargaining Forum), which comprises representatives of the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation), on behalf of seafarers, and the JNG (Joint Negotiating Group,) on behalf of employers, reached a final agreement during its negotiations, held in Miami on 27th and 28th July.

The conclusion, which has been hard fought by both sides, has resulted in a three year deal being applied to all IBF agreements with effect from 1 January 2012 and includes an incremental pay increase over the three year period. A 2% increase will be applied on 1 January 2012, a further 2.5% increase will be applied on 1 January 2013 and the final 3% increase will be applied on 1 January 2014.

Under the terms of a new methodology as agreed between the parties during 2010, the percentage increase will be applied to an element which includes both pay and union funding; however the specifics of the application of the increases between Officer and Rating categories and funding elements, will be decided at Local Negotiations between individual Union Affiliates and the Employers.

Further cost items agreed during the negotiations include the introduction of an incentive increase in ITF Welfare Fund rebates to the IBF of an additional 5%, on top of the current 5%, if the number of vessels being covered under IBF agreements increases year on year by 2%, 2% and 1% during the years 2012 to 2014 respectively.

As well as discussing cost issues, the parties to the IBF spent considerable time discussing specific amendments to the Articles of the IBF Collective Bargaining Agreement that included such items as changes to the period that is defined as probationary when a seafarer commences his or her first term of employment with a Company and references to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

The issue of piracy was debated at great length and a revised text was agreed on warlike operations / high risk areas. The issue of reviewing the extended area and compensation was held over for further dialogue in the near future.

In addition to the specific amendments to the articles of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a revised Memorandum of Agreement was signed which contains additional agreements reached during the entire span of the IBF process that are open and currently relevant, with further items added during the 2011 negotiations. These additions include principles to assist Companies with the development of Disciplinary/Grievance Procedures and Bullying/Harassment Procedures and commitments to maintain future Officer supply through Cadet training and the provision of training berths on board IBF covered ships.

Speaking on conclusion of the IBF Negotiations, Dave Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers' Section, commented: "The last few years have put a great pressure on both sides of the IBF to be seen to be acting responsibly in support of both the Seafarers and those that employ them. The collapse in the world financial market has led to employers wanting to minimize their cost increases in difficult times; and has put pressure on those who represent the seafarers to understand this financial situation, whilst ensuring that they are protecting the interest and livelihoods of their members. The final agreement that we have reached has demonstrated the ability of the two sides to work together being both constructive and representative. This agreement bears testament to the strength of the IBF process and its ability to reach conclusions in difficult times, on difficult issues."

Giles Heimann, Secretary General of IMEC and Joint Secretary of the JNG commented: "The final outcome reached by the IBF is both a pragmatic and mutually acceptable agreement for both sides. The IBF system has yet again demonstrated the ability of both sides of the table to work closely together in examining the core issues at hand; and through debate, negotiation, respect for each other's opinions and understanding, a solution has been found, which allows us all to confirm that we have achieved a good result for our constituents."

Heimann continued by saying "Whilst of course, the specific outcome that will be focussed on is the pay increase, we should not forget that the IBF system of partnership focuses on many other issues - during these negotiations, a great deal has been achieved which supports the IBF process into the future, as well as agreeing to the pay settlement."