Unions Warn Over Norwegian Offshore Reflagging

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin and Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman join delegates at the ITF Berlin joint seafarer and docker meeting in condemning Norway flagging out nation's oil and gas industry.

International Transport Workers' Federation seafarer representatives meeting in Berlin have warned that unless action is taken now there could soon be a situation where there are no Norwegian seafarers left in Norway's offshore sector.

The ITF's joint seafarer and docker Fair Practices Committee voted Friday to act to support Norwegian unions after they raised the alarm about 'social dumping' and widespread reflagging on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, home of the country's oil and gas industry.

It was responding to a resolution proposed by the Norwegian Maritime Officers' Association, Norwegian Union of Marine Engineers, and Norwegian Seafarers' Union, which asked for support from the ITF and its member unions to resist the replacement of Norwegian seafarers with other nationalities on wages and under working conditions far below Norwegian norms.

ITF Offshore Task Force Group (OTFG) Chair Norrie McVicar commented: "It might seem inconceivable that a country such as Norway would permit second rate conditions, wages and job protection in this vital national industry - but bit by bit it's already happening. Our Norwegian colleagues have sounded the alarm today, and our first move will be to call together the OTFG's strategic campaign group to consider the issues. In the meantime the ITF will offer mediation to both parties."

The resolution passed today at the ITF Seafarers' and Dockers' meetings in Berlin is as follows:

"Social Dumping on the Norwegian Continental Shelf

NOTES that there are an increasing number of FOC and other "national" registered vessels operating on a regular basis on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and that the situation is escalating. 

FURTHER NOTES that several vessels registered in the Norwegian 1st registry (NOR) are now being reflagged as a consequence of the unfair competition from other registers whilst continuing regular operation on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and replacing Norwegian Seafarers with other nationalities on wage and working conditions far below Norwegian wage and working conditions. 

RECALLS last year when Knutsen OAS, Teekay, Myklebusthaug, DOF, Havila, Farstad and other Norwegian owned and/or controlled Companies flagged out one or more NOR vessels resulting in several hundred Norwegian ratings and junior officers losing their jobs. 

NOTES that 64 offshore related vessels have been reflagged from NOR to other registers in 2008 and 2009.

IS DEEPLY CONCERNED that in the near future will no longer be any NOR vessels on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and thereby no Norwegian Seafarers on board offshore supply and service vessels operating in Norway.

BELIEVES that the only way to prevent social dumping on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and uphold the competitiveness of the Norwegian Seafarers is to demand Norwegian wage and working conditions for the Seafarers on board vessels operating on the Norwegian Continental Shelf regardless of nationality.

ACKNOWLEDGES that the shipping industry is a globalised industry, but uphold Norwegians Seafarers right to compete for jobs servicing the Norwegian petroleum industry on the Norwegian Continental Shelf based on Norwegian wage and working conditions.

CONDEMNS the Norwegian Shipowners' Association (NSA) unwillingness to stop the unfair competition on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and they therefore rejected our proposed amendment to our Offshore Model Agreement which was an adoption of the Special Norwegian Continental Shelf bonus to compensate the wage difference between Norwegian National Offshore Agreement and Offshore Model Agreement with the NSA.

HAVE INVITED Norwegian Companies with offshore service vessels that previously were  covered by the Offshore Model Agreement to individual negotiations.  The first individual negotiation took place 12. January 2010 with Troms Offshore regarding two vessels intended to operate for the Norwegian Coastal Administration as part of Norway's national tugboat preparedness plan.  The Company indicated that they disagree with the introduction of the Continental Shelf bonus and have implied that they have the right to decide which agreement they should be covered by.

RECOGNISES the need to have the ITF Affiliates support in order to be in the position to implement a National Wage Standard on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

CALLS ON the ITF family for support and solidarity in our struggle against social dumping on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and request the Offshore Task Force Group to introduce the Norwegian Continental Shelf bonus into the Standard Offshore Agreement for vessels operating on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

CALLS ON the ITF Secretariat to provide support and resources deemed necessary to assist us in this matter.

Motion submitted by:

The Norwegian Maritime Officers' Association

Norwegian Union of marine Engineers

Norwegian Seafarers' Union"

In a linked development the Offshore Task Force Group, also meeting in Berlin, declared its full support for the ITF affiliated unions and their members on the drilling rig Stena Don in their campaign to protect national jobs and fight against 'social dumping'.

A meeting of the European OTFG has been called to formulate a collective response to Stena Drilling