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Maritime union calls on Australia to immediately designate seafarers key workers

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Australian maritime unions have called on the country’s government act immediately to declare seafarers as “key workers”.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) described as “notable” the omission of Australia among 45 IMO member states that have determined seafarers to be key workers.

International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) president and MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said: “Australia must act immediately to align itself with international efforts, led by organisations like the IMO and ITF, to designate seafarers as key workers providing an essential service, and facilitate the safe and unhindered movement of seafarers for embarking and disembarking a vessel, accessing shore leave, and when necessary, access to shore-based medical treatment.

“While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the health of people and communities across the world, the outlook for seafarers becomes increasingly more desperate by the day.

“The despair of this crisis cannot be understated. Over 400,000 seafarers internationally are held captive on their ships, and an equal number are prevented from travelling to relieve these desperate workers due to the global and national inconsistencies in travel restrictions.”

Australia has taken a strong stance on enforcement of contract periods under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), however, at the same time has effectively barred crew change as part of its measures to protect the country from the spread of Covid-19.