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To all participants in the Offshore Task Force Group
ITF E-Circular No. 118/S/2020
Our ref: S/AOP/ld
30 March 2020
International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Statement on COVID-19
We are living in unprecedented times as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has impacted all sectors of the economy, including the offshore oil and gas industry due to decreased demand and plunging oil prices. The ITF Offshore Task Force and ITF affiliates are working with companies and governments to ensure that all seafarers engaged in the offshore industry are protected; that governments, flag states and companies are taking all necessary measures to limiting the exposure of workers in the industry to COVID-19; and, that governments assist seafarers in the offshore industry, who are displaced or loss work during this time, are also provided assistance.
In some countries, seafarers including those in the offshore industry have been deemed essential employees, thus requiring measures to be undertaken to protect these workers. We are calling on governments (flag states/port states and seafarers country of residence), shipowners/managers and oil majors to implement measures to protect the health and safety of the crew.
· Require pre-boarding screening for all crew joining a vessel.
· Seafarers must be guaranteed access to prompt testing and medical assistance should they develop or show symptoms of COVID-19 contagion.
· Facilitation for repatriation of seafarers and boarding of replacement crew should be guaranteed in a way to avoid an excessive length of permanence on board for those seafarers who have completed their contracts.
· No routine crew changes shall be allowed where safe and secure conditions cannot be guaranteed, however, port authorities should inform the ships before their arrival in the port.
· Provide crew health guidance so they recognise signs and symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, dry cough, tiredness and shortness of breath.
· Develop plans to handle and evacuate crew that show signs and symptoms of the virus or test positive for COVID-19.
· Ensure that proper cleaning and sanitation procedures are followed
· Ensure adequate availability of hand sanitiser, set hand sanitiser stations on deck and at the entrance of the crew quarters and inside the safe room
· Protect wages and full pay for all seafarers through a variety of means, including mutually agreed through collective bargaining and government stimulus packages
· Report all incidents of crew that have tested positive for COVID-19
· Immediately report and self-isolate should they develop any symptoms which may indicate they have contracted COVID-19 or if they come in contact with any other seafarer that has tested positive for COVID-19.
· If a seafarer shows any symptoms or comes in contact with anyone that exhibited symptoms, he/she should immediately inform the Master or the designated Officer and avoid any contact with others.
· Follow all safety protocols provided by the company and government/flag state and port state authorities.
A study undertaken by the International Labor Organization estimates 25 million jobs worldwide will be lost, and the offshore industry is no exception. Some companies in the offshore industry have already announced that work will slow down or stop which will result in laid—up offshore vessels with less crew onboard. During these unprecedented times and economic uncertainty, the financial and economic security of seafarers in the offshore industry must be addressed. Employers, governments and workers representatives must work collaboratively and creatively to minimise job loss and ensure economic stability.
Some of our affiliates have informed us of good examples where employers, unions and governments are working collaboratively to protect workers and the offshore industry. In Norway, the unions have negotiated agreements that crew changes may be postponed with the agreement of the union representatives and there are discussions with the government to ensure measures are taken so that international crew are safely repatriated. In Denmark the unions, employers and the government through their tripartite system are jointly addressing the concerns to the offshore industry. Further, the Danish Government has announced that it will cover up to 90% of their employees' salaries as long as the employer does not terminate any employees. The union that holds the collective agreement is a signatory to the employers' request for refund and monitors and confirms that there has been no termination of permanent employed personnel. In the United Kingdom, unions have called on the government to establish a tripartite system to address issues for the workers.
While we are pleased to hear work is being undertaken in some parts of the world, it is imperative that measures are put in place by all countries and companies involved in the offshore industry. Therefore, we call on national and local governments to prepare and implement measures to protect offshore workers including seafarers and the industry during this difficult time, including:
· Income protections, including unemployment payments in the event of job loss;
· Access to medical care and testing should a seafarer be exposed to COVID-19 while at on a vessel;
· Immediately extend paid sick leave entitlements, maintain incomes and extend social protections to all seafarers;
· Guarantee paid leave, in the form of sick pay or holiday pay, from the first day of leave, for any seafarer threatened or infected by COVID-19;
· Establish compensation funds for all seafarers, including non-standard forms of employment and work-related contracts, which are adversely impacted by COVID-19 and the responses to it; and
· Enact stimulus packages with government spending that aims to sustain jobs and the economy, protecting wages, the welfare of workers and small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs).
The ITF is actively monitoring the situation and we will continue to work with our affiliates to ensure that the necessary actions are undertaken for seafarers in the offshore industry in order to protect their health and economic security. We will provide regular updates when necessary during this time. We also kindly ask that you continue to send in information regarding the challenges/issues your members in the offshore industry are facing in in your respective countries and any measures taken to address.
A. Ole Philipsen
Chair of the Offshore Task Force Group