Wage Discrimination and Other Seafarers’ Woes

“The rights of workers, that is, the right to be organized into unions, to collective bargaining, to security of tenure and to have a just and humane condition at work, are continuously being denied them by capitalists who are only after profits. This is, despite the fact that these are embodied by the Constitution and other international legal instruments and conventions,” says Joseph T. Entero, a maritime labor lawyer.


Limang taon akong walang trabaho. Sinuwerte naman at natanggap para makasakay sa isang barkong Danish-flagged,” (I was jobless for five years. Luckily, I was hired to work for a ship carrying the Danish flag.) said Ex, a seafarer who requested not to be named. He was hired as a third engineer (3/E).

His “luck” did not end there. “Nakapasa ako sa examination na ibinigay ng Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) at nabigyan ng Certificate of Competency (I passed the examination administered by the DMA and was given a Certificate of Competency),” he said.

Ex said the Certificate of Competency is a requirement that allows a foreign deck officer to work in a Danish International Ship (DIS) Registry vessel.

He began working in the ship, which he refused to identify, in December 2008.

His luck did not last long, however.

Undermanned, low salaried

Dalawampu’t dalawa kami sa barko: apat na Danish na opisyal, 18 Pinoy” (We are 22 on-board the ship: four Danish officers and 18 Filipino crew members),” Ex related.

Unlike what was promised, his salary was below the standard for Danish-owned ships.

Mababa ang suweldo, US$1,799, iba kaysa sa itinakda ng ITF-TCC” (The salary was low, only $1,799 unlike what the International Transport Workers’ Federation-Total Crew Cost has set), shared Ex.

The ITF-TCC is an agreement between the ship owners and the union, being represented by the ITF, which sets the standards of how the crew is to be compensated, from wages to other benefits.

Bulatlat obtained a copy of the ITF-TCC and it stipulated that 3/Es’ total wages should amount to $2,727.

Lumalabas, katumbas lang ang sahod namin sa nagtatrabaho sa isang barkong rehistrado sa Pilipinas” (It appeared that our salary is just like the salary of those who work for a Philippine Registry vessel), explained Ex.

Another problem is that the ship is undermanned, Ex told Bulatlat.

Kawawa ang junior officers kasi, sa kanila napupunta ‘yong karagdagang mga trabaho. Wala namang ekstrang bayad (The junior officers are the ones who are made to take on additional jobs, without additional pay),” he said.

He said that usually, around four additional tasks are given to each junior deck officer.

Whenever he remembers the cadets and new graduates who have joined their crew, Ex’s voice cracks.

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