European Commission - Press release
Working conditions in fisheries: key agreement signed by social partners
Brussels, 21 May 2012 – Today, representatives of the European Union's employers and trade unions in the sea fisheries sector signed an agreement to ensure that fishermen have decent working conditions on board fishing vessels with regard to minimum requirements for conditions of service, accommodation and food, occupational safety and health protection, medical care, and social security. This agreement implements at EU level the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on "Work in the fishing sector".
This agreement confirms the EU's commitment to improving the working conditions of fishermen both in Europe and globally. The EU social partners intend to ask the Commission to present their Agreement to the EU's Council of Ministers in order to implement it through an EU Directive, in accordance with Article 155 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, and so make the rules legally binding in the EU and enable speedier ratification of the ILO Convention.
The agreement was signed by Javier Garat, President of Europêche and Giampaolo Buonfiglio, on behalf of Cogeca, as Chairman of the Fish Working Party of Copa-Cogeca for the employers. Eduardo Chagas, Secretary General of the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) signed as the employees' representative. The agreement was signed at the European Maritime Day conference, which takes place on May 21-22 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki, in charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, who was present at the signing event, said: "This agreement is the key step to legally bind EU Member States to improving the working conditions for fishermen in Europe. It applies, in principle, to all fishing vessels and all fishermen, including multi-national crews. It obliges authorities to monitor whether the rules are complied with, and encourages coordination among relevant authorities. Making fishing safer and more attractive as a profession is one of the goals of the ongoing reform of the Common Fisheries Policy."
Commissioner László Andor, in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said: "I welcome this agreement to set clear benchmarks for improving working conditions and the health and safety of fisheries workers. The agreement demonstrates how social dialogue can play an important role in designing EU regulation."
Globalisation has had a profound impact on the fishing sector and the rights of fishermen need to be promoted and protected. The risk of an accident causing an injury or death is 2.4 times greater in the sea fisheries sector than the average of all EU industries. The fishing industry accounts for 7% of all fatalities at work in the world, even though, with 355,000 people working in fisheries, it accounts for less than 0.2% of the EU workforce. The fishing sector is a major source of jobs in some Member States (Greece 1.5%) and regions (e.g. Galicia, Spain 3%) or coastal communities (e.g.Killybegs, Ireland 68%).
ILO Convention n°188 gathers and completes other ILO Conventions already in force, and sets minimum requirements for work on board fishing vessels, including accommodation and food, health and safety, medical care, contractual conditions, and social security. It is supplemented by ILO Recommendation n° 199. Although adopted by the General Conference of the ILO in June 2007, the Convention has not yet entered into force, as it needs to be ratified by at least ten signatories.
The EU Treaty gives the EU social partners the power to request that an agreement signed by them becomes EU law through a Council Decision and thus become legally binding for all EU Member States. This agreement will not only reinforce implementation of the ILO Convention but also pave the way for its full ratification by EU Member States by the end of 2012, so that the Convention can enter into force worldwide in 2013.
The agreement follows negotiations between European social partners in the sea fisheries sector (Europêche- COGECA representing employers and the European Transport Workers Federation employee) launched in 2010.
Both national and EU legislation need to be adopted to ratify the Convention. With regard to EU law, the Commission initiated a legislative process through consultation of the social partners in 2007. On 7 June 2010, the Council adopted a Decision authorising Member States to ratify, in the interests of the EU, the ILO Convention by which "MS should make efforts to take the necessary steps to deposit their instruments of ratification of the convention as soon as possible, preferably before 31 December 2012".
Having the legal framework in place is only the first step. The EU Member States need to ensure - through controls and inspections - that the rules are complied with. This clearly applies not only to fishing vessels flying a flag of an EU Member State, but also to vessels flying a flag of states that have not ratified the Convention, when they call at an EU port.
The Commission will help the Member States to perform their duties. Moreover, the European Fisheries Fund and, as of 2014, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, will financially assist the fishing industry to improve safety on board vessels and for the workers to attend specific training courses.
A recent study of 24 coastal communities in Europe has shown that fleets have increasing difficulties to complete crews with local, well qualified people and have to resort to non-EU nationals and – in small scale fleets – use workers that continue working beyond the legal retirement age. The study shows that fishing is simply not an attractive career prospect. Declining catches - and therefore uncertain prospects - and relatively low wages are only partly to blame. Safety concerns and difficult working conditions aboard fishing vessels are another part of the problem.
Fisheries Policy http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries
European Maritime Day http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeday
Employment, social affairs and inclusion policies: http://ec.europa.eu/social/
László Andor's website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/andor/
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