Seafarers Sign Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with Oversea Shipping Company

A historical collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to leverage employment for 16 Liberian trained seafarers has been signed in Monrovia.

The deal, which marked the beginning of an end to 14 years of joblessness by seafarers, was signed yesterday between the United Seamen Port &General Workers Union of Liberia (USPOGUL), Seafarer Section, and NOS Shipping Company of Singapore at the head offices of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) in Sinkor.

Mr. William Chang, chief executive officer (CEO), of NOS Shipping Company which is registered under the Liberian flag, signed for his entity, while Madam Mother Y. Kpumeh, president of the Seafarers Section, signed for the USPOGUL in the presence of the union’s executives.

The deal is a major step towards acquiring employment opportunities for the more than 3,000 unemployed Liberian seafarers.

Under the CBA, NOS Shipping Company will provide employment for the 16 Liberian seafarers onboard its eight vessels; with each vessel employing two Liberians onboard.

LMA Commissioner Binyah C. Kesselly spoke at the ceremony during which time he commended the leadership of the seafarers for taking bold steps in entering negotiations with ship owners and initiating the CBA with NOS Shipping Company.

Mr. Kesselly clarified that the government of Liberia is not a party to the deal, but pointed out that government has the responsibility to support negotiations between the seafarers and vessel owners on how to generate employment for the seafarers.

"We ensure that seafarers are properly trained and certificated, but we are not party to the CBA," he said.

Under the CBA, NOS Shipping Company will pay the seafarers through their personal salary accounts. Only union dues will be paid to the USPOGUL, Seafarer Section's account.

Commissioner Kesselly maintained that government's responsibility of training seafarers remains unabated reiterating "it is our duty to ensure that our seafarers get the best training and ready for the job market."

The Maritime boss observed that placing Liberians on vessels enhances the country's position and status as a leading maritime nation.

"Our training facility in Marshall is ready and kicking to train our seafarers," the Commissioner added. In special remarks, the United Seamen's Secretary General Arthur S. Massaquoi said the more than 14 years of unemployment suffered by seafarers have come to an end.

According to Mr. Massaquoi, the long awaited CBA opens windows of opportunity for the thousands of unemployed seafarers.

It may be recalled that in 2006, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed the Maritime Labor Convention in Geneva, Switzerland that mandates flag state ships to grant employment facilities to for citizens.

Massaquoi, who called on other flag ships to emulate the good example of NOS Shipping Company, expressed his gratitude to the President and Commissioner Kesselly for making the Convention a reality for seafarers since it was signed in 2006.

"The Maritime Labor Convention is now beginning to pave the way for training and employment of Liberian seafarers," Massaquoi added.

According to him, the signing of the first CBA after the Convention is an opportunity for Liberian youth that the country’s maritime sector is ready.

"It also speaks volumes to the youth that the re-election of President Sirleaf was not a mistake, but one in the best interest of the Liberian people especially, seafarers," he said.

The United Seamen's Secretary General also used the occasion to commend Commissioner Kesselly for his recent election as Second Vice Chair of Committee (1), of the 27 Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), "which," he said "has brought great credibility to the government of Liberia."

In brief remarks, Seafarers Section president Madam Mother Y. Kpumeh, praised Commissioner Kesselly and said "we have lot more to do."

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