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ITF claws back $37m in unpaid seafarer wages in 2021

Photo: ITF An ITF inspector watches carefully as a ship's master counts out unpaid wages owed to crew. Most seafarers are paid in US dollars and in cash onboard - Credit ITF[81].jpg
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) clawed by $37m in wages owed to seafarers as vessel abandonments hit a record high.

Last year the ITF was able to recover $37,591,331 in unpaid wages and entitlements to crew from shipowners. The under payment of crew was found out some of the 7,265 inspections carried out by the union worldwide in 2021.

“It’s not uncommon for crew to be paid the at the wrong rate by a shipowner, or less than the rate set out in the employment agreement covering the ship,” said Steve Trowsdale, the ITF’s Inspectorate Coordinator.

“Crew can generally work out when they’re being underpaid. And that’s when they contact us. ITF inspectors help seafarers recover what’s owed to them.”

A worrying trend is the length of periods of non-payment of seafarers, which move into the even more serious area of abandonment. Last year saw a record high of 95 cases of abandonment reported by the ITF to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“Concerningly, we’re seeing a rise in the number of seafarers reporting non-payment of wages for periods of two months or longer, which actually meets the ILO’s definition of abandonment,” Trowsdale said.

“Seafarers might think it’s normal to go unpaid for a couple of months, waiting for a shipowner to sort out financing, but they need to be aware that non-payment can also be a sign that a shipowner is about to cut them loose and leave them abandoned.”