WMU Contributes to LERA Discussion on Worker Rights Protections During Pandemic

On 28 May, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU) contributed as a speaker for the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) webinar series on "Labor and Employment Relations During the COVID-19 Pandemic." 

Addressing the topic of “Global Governance During Pandemic: Implications of Force Majeure and National Emergency for Worker Rights Protections," President Doumbia-Henry focused on the importance of the shipping industry during this critical time, and the need to protect seafarers and the global supply chain. She highlighted that every month over 150,000 seafarers need to be replaced to come on board ship or to go ashore at the end of their period of service.

Shipping is responsible for carrying more than 80 per cent of global trade to peoples and communities around the world, and the multinational workforce of seafarers are key workers for the global supply chain.  There are over two million seafarers worldwide of which over 200,000 during this pandemic have been stranded or abandoned at sea and have not been able to undertake crew change and repatriation as required by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006)

President Doumbia-Henry highlighted IMO circular letter 4204 and the Joint Statement of the International Labour Organization Special Tripartite Committee of the MLC, 2006 that provide guidance and emphasize the importance of respecting seafarers’ rights to repatriation. In addition, the International Maritime Organization has issued a 12-step plan to restart crew changes so seafarers can disembark and new crew be deployed.  

“In times of COVID-19, there are significant concerns regarding crew change and travel, mental health, welfare and wellbeing for seafarers including psychosocial emergency care, medical supplies, fuel, water and provisions for ships. It is crucial that Governments ensure that seafarers can transit, transfer and join ships in ports around the world. They are undoubtedly key workers on which our global economy relies so the goods we require continue to be delivered, including urgent medical supplies,” said President Doumbia-Henry.

The Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) is the singular organization in the United States where professionals interested in all aspects of labor and employment relations network to share ideas and learn about new developments, issues, and practices in the field. Founded in 1947 as the Industrial Relations Research Association (IRRA), the National LERA provides a unique forum where the views of representatives of labor, management, government and academics, advocates and neutrals are welcome.

Established within the framework of the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, WMU’s mission is to be the world centre of excellence in postgraduate maritime and oceans education, professional training and research, while building global capacity and promoting sustainable development.

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