Wage Discrimination and Other Seafarers’ Woes

Mga BSMT (Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation) graduates ‘yang mga ‘yan. Nagsumikap para makapagtapos ng apat na taong kurso. May apprenticeship pa ‘yang mga ‘yan, pero ang kinauuwian nila general purpose workers, mga tagalinis, tagapinta ng barko” (They’re BSMT graduates. They struggled to finish a four-year course.They even went through apprenticeship. But they ended up being general purpose workers: cleaners, ship painters), he said, shaking his head.

These newly grads, he said, are working for 14 hours straight and have been given additional loads, if the Danish officers wanted to.


During his five-month stint on that ship, he learned another secret of the company he had joined.

He said some of the crew members are directly-hired, which means they receive salaries even while not on board, while others come from manning agencies and can be “disposed of” by the company whenever it so desires.

Ex says the four Danish officers and four of the Filipinos are company-hired; the rest are contractuals. He did not say whether he himself was company-hired or contractual.

There is also discrimination in the food services, Ex told Bulatlat. The Filipinos are served food that is different from what is served to the Danish officers.

Puro cold cuts ang ulam namin, araw-araw” (We were served cold cuts, everyday), he said, with a hint of disgust.

Furthermore, the provision (food supply) is inadequate, Ex said. He narrated: “May pagkakataon na nagbiyahe kami, mula Espanya hanggang Angola. Isang buwang suplay lang ang dala namin. Bigla kaming nag-anchorage sa Angola nang isang buwan. Naku, sobrang hirap talaga! Mabuti na lang, mapamaraan ang mga Pinoy. Nangawil kami para may makain” (There was an instance when we traveled to Angola from Spain. Our provisions were only good for one month. Suddenly, we anchored in Angola for one month. Oh, it was really very difficult. It’s good that the Filipino crewmen are resourceful. We fished for additional food.)

Because of the salary, food and exploitation issues, he resigned and returned to the Philippines with just a few dollars in his pocket.

But he clarified that he was not forced by his employer to resign, and neither does he have plans to file labor cases against his principal and manning agency.

Seafarers deprived of their rights

“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, during a lecture about seafarers’ rights held early April.

Entero is one of the labor lawyers who founded the Union of Lawyers and Advocates for People’s Rights during the 1980s.

No unions, no CBA

“Every worker has the right to join a union, but it is unfortunate that most of our workers, both land-based and sea-based alike, are not unionized. Only 10 percent of the labor force is organized and only a small percentage of the seafarers are into unions,” he said.

The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work states that the “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining” is an essential right of workers.

Because of the low number of sea workers who are organized, only a few are also covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), he added.

“Collective bargaining is the process whereby workers organize together to meet, converse, and compromise on the work environment with their employers,” said Arthur Sullivan and Steven Sheffrin, in their book Economics: Principles in Action.

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