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ITF and SMOU help resolve Indian seamen wage tussle

ITF and SMOU help resolve Indian seamen wage tussle

Singapore: The International Transport Workers' Federation and the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU) have successfully assisted the 22 Indian national crew members (pictured) of the MV Lady Belinda to receive $102,000 in wages, owed to them since December 2007.

The stricken bulk carrier, fully laden with iron ore, became immobilised on January 5 2008 in the northern stretch of the Malacca Straits and had arrived under tow in Singapore on January 14. The vessel had since been detained by the authorities for not being seaworthy and the crew had sought the help of the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU) to recover up to four months of wages.

Upon receiving their salaries in cash on Saturday, April 5, most of the seamen onboard have submitted requests to leave the vessel, citing its unseaworthiness.

SMOU president Capt Robin Foo said that he was appalled at the condition of the vessel, which had a visible hole at its stern just above the water line and the food and water provisions for the crew that were running low.

"It is really distressing to see that seafarers are still being unscrupulously exploited, and the unsafe working conditions onboard the unseaworthy vessel is a cause for concern for the industry. We're very happy for the seafarers and it is very heart-warming as a unionist to see the joy on the faces of the seafarers who have finally received wages that they have been owed for many months and have worked very hard for."

He added, "We are thankful for the assistance by the various seafaring welfare organisations especially the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), who have helped with the humanitarian welfare of the seafarers and have assisted us with the wage recovery for the crew".

"As the vessel is still unsafe and unseaworthy, we are now working to ensure that the vessel owner and the employers pay for the full repatriation of the seafarers onboard and that they will continue to pay all additional wages incurred until the crew sign-off the vessel and are repatriated," states Foo.

The vessel's chief officer, G Ramanamurthy, expressed his relief and thanked the ITF and SMOU saying, "When food provisions were critical especially during the Easter weekend, SMOU came onboard with food, when we needed to contact our families, calling cards were provided and most importantly they helped us get our hard-earned wages."

Junior Engineer Sheikh Yakub Umar added, "We never believed we could get our money back, but the ITF & SMOU have made it possible, I'm glad that the ordeal has almost come to an end."  [08/04/08]