Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maersk lines announced Asia-Europe service enhancements

General rate increase in the transatlantic trade
23 February 2009
As a result of the market instability in the transatlantic trade, Maersk Line is announcing the following general rate increase, effective 1 April 2009. Rate increases are necessary to continue to operate our services with the high level of reliability our customers have come to expect from Maersk Line.

The filed increases are as follows between Northern Europe and the East Coast and Gulf Coast of North America:
• USD 160 per 20’ dry container
• USD 220 per 40’ container/high cube/45’ container/reefer
The filed increases are as follows between Northern Europe and the West Coast of North America:
• USD 200 per 20’ dry container
• USD 300 per 40’ container/high cube/45’ container/reefer
The increases apply equally to all Eastbound and Westbound cargo moving between the US & Canada and Northern Europe

Distress Beacons at 121.5 and 243 MHz Phased Out

As of February 1, the Cospas-Sarsat (Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking) satellites are no longer monitoring distress beacons at 121.5 and 243 MHz. All mariners, aviators and individuals who use emergency beacons on those frequencies will need to switch to the newer, digital 406 MHz frequency if they want to be detected by the monitoring satellites. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claims that in 2008, beacons monitored by the Cospas-Sarsat worldwide system were responsible for almost 300 lives saved, including 203 people rescued in 65 in at-sea incidents and 12 people rescued in 7 aviation incidents.
"Over the years, many amateurs have played vital roles by monitoring frequencies that the satellites have stopped tracking," said ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD. "While the switchover to 406 MHz just occurred, there is still 'older' equipment out in the world, so amateurs may want to continue monitoring, as they may save a person's life who doesn't have the latest gear, but is in distress and needs to be found."
According to NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS), NOAA, the US Coast Guard, the US Air Force and NASA monitored these emergency beacons. According to NESDIS, problems in the frequency band that inundated search and rescue authorities with poor accuracy, as well as numerous false alerts that adversely impacted the effectiveness of lifesaving services, were some of the deciding factors to stop the monitoring of 121.5 and 243 MHz. The agency also acknowledged that two United Nations agencies -- the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) -- recommended the switchover to the 406 MHz digital frequency, even though the beacons for this frequency will cost more.
Cospas-Sarsat provides a satellite based worldwide monitoring system that detects and locates distress signals transmitted by 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs, used in aviation), Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs, used for maritime) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs, used by individuals). The system includes space and ground segments that process the signals received from the beacon source and forwards the distress alert data to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) for action.
NOAA said that the 406 MHz emergency beacons have "superior performance capabilities" as compared to the 121.5 and 243 MHz beacons, as they "transmit a stronger signal and are more accurate, verifiable and traceable," and that the 406 MHz distress signals can be "easily detected within a matter of minutes. Each 406 MHz beacon has a unique ID encoded within its signal. As long as the beacon has been registered (required by law), RCCs can quickly confirm that the distress is real, who they are looking for and where they should look. This means that a search can be launched even before a final distress location has been determined. Position accuracy means the search area is less than 2 nautical miles in radius, which decreases the amount of time SAR teams must search."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Temporary employment contracts come under fire, ITGLWF

Temporary employment contracts come under fire, ITGLWF
February 24, 2009 (Cambodia)
The Global Union representing workers in the textile and clothing sector is taking action to oppose proposed amendments to Cambodia’s labour law aimed at extending the use of temporary employment contracts.Says Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the Brussels-based International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation: “The widespread use of temporary contracts in Cambodia has had a very negative impact on worker rights in our sector. Such contracts represent a major obstacle to the right of freedom of association as they enable employers to get rid of trade union leaders with ease by simply failing to renew their temporary contracts. In addition, contracts of less than one year allow employers to avoid key obligations to workers, including maternity and sick leave.” “The use of short-term contracts has till now been a grey area of the law, though the Arbitration Council has interpreted the labour code to require that employees who have worked for an employer for two years must be treated as permanent employees.” “The private sector has been lobbying the government to amend these provisions and as a result the Ministry of Labor has drafted proposed amendments that would enable employers to hire workers on temporary contracts indefinitely.” A number of garment manufacturers have reportedly already began switching from permanent to temporary contracts. “The proposed amendments are inconsistent with good multistakeholder and corporate codes of conduct, which ban companies from using short-term contracts as a means of avoiding legal obligations to workers”, says Mr. Kearney. Says Mr. Kearney: “As the current worldwide recession continues to deepen and brands and retailers are forced to cut back their orders, many are looking to give priority to suppliers that perform the best both on production criteria and on social compliance. In order to weather the crisis and prepare for recovery, it is therefore of vital importance that Cambodia upholds the protection of workers in the sector”.The Global Union is considering further action, including the possibility of a formal complaint to the International Labour Organisation.

The International Textile, Garment & Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF)

Shipowners ready to give UK tonnage tax a wide berth

Janet Porter - Monday 23 February 2009
SHIPOWNERS are losing faith in Britain’s tonnage tax regime at a time when London’s status as a global maritime centre is under considerable pressure.

The tonnage tax system contributed greatly to the revival in the number of ships operated from the UK, a resurgence that also benefited the country’s professional services and other related activities.

But several shipping companies contacted by Lloyd’s List today said they had no plans to enter any more ships into the UK system, because of the risk that the government may try to tamper with the rules again.

“There is a general viewpoint that there are other more stable tax regimes than the UK’s,” said one major owner who has ships both flagged in the UK and enrolled in the tonnage tax system. “Uncertainty is never good.”

Another expressed almost identical complaints about rule changes that have dented confidence in the UK system.

Even if the government now promised there would be no further attempts to adjust the tax, “the damage is done”, he said.

Evergreen Marine UK’s honorary chairman Maurice Storey said today that this loss of support could reverse the trend that has brought so many new ships to the UK since the tonnage tax was introduced in 2000.

“That would be very sad because if we lose them this time, we may not get them back,” he said.

Evergreen Group chairman Chang Yung-fa warned last year about the risks to British shipping of tax uncertainty when he said that his company would be prepared to switch ships to Singapore if the UK system lost its competitiveness.

The Taiwanese group still has 11 ships under the UK flag and entered into the tonnage tax system, and currently has no ships on order.

But when it does resume its building programme, new ships that might otherwise have come to Britain could be placed under other tax jurisdictions that offer more stability, said Mr Storey.

The airing of these grievances about Britain’s fiscal environment coincides with an acknowledgement from Chamber of Shipping president Martin Watson that the UK’s status as a global maritime centre is being threatened by a number of factors including tax policy, the banking crisis, legal issues and competition from other cities.

In an interview with Lloyd’s List, Mr Watson said the shipping industry needed “consistency, continuity and stability in our fiscal and regulatory regime”.

Shipowner complaints do not extend to the UK register, which is managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that came in for considerable criticism from the National Audit Office earlier this month.

“If we are going to place ships with a European register, the UK would be our flag of choice,” a major container line said.

“We have no issue with the MCA,” said another.

Mr Storey, a former chief executive of the MCA, also defended the agency. “Evergreen has a good relationship with the MCA, and we have no complaints,” he said.

Ships can be entered into the tonnage tax system without having to be flagged in the UK. Nevertheless, business leaders are concerned the growing unpopularity of the UK scheme could have wider repercussions at a time when all sectors of the country’s maritime industry are under so much pressure.

Mr Watson raised the issue a few weeks ago when he told guests attending the chamber’s annual dinner that two inward-investing members had decided that 70 large ships originally intended for the UK would go elsewhere instead, because of inconsistent government policy.

“Changes over the last year to the business environment for UK-based shipping — both actual and threatened — have given rise to instability and uncertainty that has led to a major slowing of growth in the UK-based fleet,” he said.

At the same time, the full impact of the decision to impose a £30,000 ($44,000) tax levy on non-domiciles will not be known for another year, when those affected have to elect whether to stay in the UK. But Mr Watson said some have already left the country, with others likely to follow.

The departure of individuals would almost certainly affect corporate activity, he predicted.

Malacca attack sparks kidnap and ransom fears

Malacca attack sparks kidnap and ransom fears
Marcus Hand, Singapore - Monday 23 February 2009

TWO crew members kidnapped by pirates from tug and barge in the Malacca Strait have been freed but there are fears that attacks could increase with the economic downturn.

The Indonesian master and chief engineer of the Singapore-registered tug MLC-Nancy 5 were kidnapped by pirates in broad daylight at 1430 hrs on February 19 when 12 armed pirates stormed their vessel in the northern part of Malacca Strait.

The pirates also stole all of the vessel’s communications equipment and personal belongings of the crew.

The remaining crew of 10 onboard the vessel were unharmed in the attack and able to make it to the Malaysian port of Penang.

The Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia information-sharing centre confirmed that the two crew members had been released.

It said the vessel’s agent had done all it could to secure the seafarers’ release, but that details of how this was achieved were not available. It was not know whether a ransom was paid.

Arrangements are being made for the two crew members to travel home and be reunited with their families.

Will remittances fall?

Will remittances fall?
By Cielito Habito
Philippine Daily Inquirer

IF THE PHILIPPINE ECONOMY HAS SO FAR weathered the impact of the global financial crisis better than most of its neighbors, it’s because of one unique element: Massive remittances from millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The country is now the third largest recipient of remittances in the world, behind India and Mexico. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reports that overseas Filipinos sent back $16.4 billion of remittances last year, growing 13.7 percent over the 2007 level even with the global economic slowdown. This surprising continued double-digit growth propelled Filipinos’ consumption spending (and some investment spending as well) enough to offset the drop in our export sales and thereby helped keep our economy growing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Norway ratifies Maritime Labour Convention

Norway ratifies Maritime Labour Convention
13 February 2009Norway has become the latest state to ratify the International Labour Organisation's Maritime Labour Convention, following close on the heels of Panama. The Convention sets minimum standards to protect seafarers.The Convention will come into force once it has been ratified by 30 ILO member states and covers 33% of world gross tonnage. It has now been ratified by Norway, Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands and the Bahamas – representing more than 40% of the world's merchant fleet – and once it has been ratified by further states, is expected to come into force by 2011.

Silver Constellation crew win their pay

Silver Constellation crew win their pay
17 February 2009
The 25 Filipino crew of the Silver Constellation have finally received their outstanding wages and were due to be repatriated from Cornwall, England following a protracted struggle to recover back pay. The ITF helped the crew clinch a final acceptable pay settlement on 16 February.
The crew had taken two months' strike action while in Scottish waters, but had then been laid up off Falmouth, England with dwindling provisions while their back pay and repatriation were being negotiated (see news stories 9 and 16 January 2009). The crew ran out of food while in Cornish waters, but received emergency supplies from the local Mission to Seafarers.
Norrie McVicar, the ITF coordinator UK and Ireland, pursued the company to win what was owed to the crew, and a remaining final settlement of around US$204,000 wages, outstanding since July 2008, was paid on 16 February. "The 25 Filipino crew will leave the vessel in Falmouth at around 5pm tonight with letters of indemnity in place, back pay and a smile!" he reported.The Silver Constellation will remain in Falmouth for repairs with a new crew of 21 Indian seafarers. Meanwhile, ITF affiliates in Hong Kong will be pursuing an ITF-approved collective bargaining agreement to cover the vessel.

IMB Piracy Report

In the past ten days, international naval forces have captured 26 pirates. During the week of February 9th, the IMB reported six ships were attacked unsuccessfully by Somalian pirates, including British, Indian and Singapore-managed vessels. Five Somalian pirates captured by the Danish frigate Absalon on January 2nd have been successfully extradited to the Netherlands to stand trial for their attack on the Samanyolu, a Netherlands-Antilles vessel.

On 29th January, pirates seized the LPG tanker Longchamp. This attack was particularly notable as for the first time, it occurred in darkness (40 minutes before sunrise), and was also the first time an LPG vessel had been taken.

Some general patterns have emerged. The most vulnerable vessels appear to be those transiting the Gulf of Aden at less than 15 knots in daylight, and those with a low freeboard or fully laden. Contact with Coalition forces makes a significant difference and naval advice is that owners take steps to avoid attacks, attempt to deter those that are threatened and if at all possible, delay attackers until help can arrive.

The recent wave of Somali pirate attacks resulted in the following numbers of vessels taken: 7 in August, 9 in September, 5 in October, 9 in November and 4 in December. The total for 2008 was 42 vessels hijacked and 815 crew taken hostage off Somalia / Gulf of Aden.

At any given time, Somali groups hold up to 15 vessels, together with their crews whilst negotiations for release take place. The underlying civil instability will require a collective international political effort at Government level before it can be improved. In the shorter term, the most urgent task for international legislators is the establishment of an appropriate jurisdiction which would enable the prosecution of pirates – such a mechanism would need to balance the security of international trade against the freedom of the seas.

18 Pinoy Seamen Back Home After Getting Seized by Somali Pirates

More than three months after they were seized by Somali pirates in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, 18 Filipino seafarers of a Japanese-owned tanker returned to the country from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday afternoon.
Arriving aboard Emirates Airlines flight EK-332, the seamen were warmly greeted by their families who had to wait for almost an hour for their plane to touch down around 4:15 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1.
“I’m very happy I survived to be with my wife and our family,” an emotional Ariel Gamao told reporters as he held his wife Lolit in a tight embrace.
“I thank God for giving me a second lease on life,” Gamao said, crying.
Together with five South Korean crew members of M/T Chemstar Venus, the Filipino seamen were held captive for 97 days by Somali pirates who hijacked their ship on November 14 last year, as they were passing the seawaters off lawless Somalia.

Achieving the Seafarer's International Bill of Rights

Click on the following link below:



February 23 -- Bloomberg reports that shipyards in Japan, the world's third-largest shipbuilding nation, reported 69 percent fewer orders in January and forecast a third year of declines in 2009 as a global recession slashes demand for new vessels.

Orders were received for 193,700 compensated gross tons last month, the Japan Ship Exporters Association said today in an e- mailed statement. The yards, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co., had orders for 625,823 million tons a year earlier. The deepening financial crisis has dried up funds and global demand for commodities, prompting owners and operators of vessels to hold back purchases. The Baltic Dry Index, a benchmark of demand for shipping dry goods, fell 75 percent in the past year. "The serious global economic recession has slowed marine transportation," Masamoto Tazaki, chairman of the 20-member Shipbuilders' Association of Japan, said today at a press conference in Tokyo. "The industry will have to be ready for sluggish orders for new ships." There have been no reports of vessel order cancellations at Japanese shipyards even as the number of contracts falls, he said.

Japanese yards will seek a drop in steel plate prices for contracts starting April 1 as demand for the metal falls from carmakers and machinery companies and prices decline for steelmaking commodities such as coking coal. "It's natural that steel prices should go down substantially, as prices of the raw materials are declining," Tazaki said. Japanese steelmakers want a 67 percent cut in the annual contract price for coking coal because of a slump in global demand for the alloy, Macquarie Group Ltd. analysts said in a report yesterday. Compensated gross ton is an industry measure of ship size, the time required and materials used in production.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Conciliation of Labor Court Disputes

Conciliation of Labor Court Disputes

Arnold Zack
Asian Development Bank

Conciliation and mediation are the terms applied to the process of using a neutral to help facilitate an agreement between disputants. It differs from arbitration where the parties' selected neutral serves as an informal judge imposing a final and binding solution of the dispute. In collective bargaining in the U.S. and Canada, conciliation, or mediation is primarily used to resolve disputes of interest in reaching agreements, while arbitration is usually invoked to provide a final and binding resolution of rights disputes under those agreements. In the unorganized sector, mediation and arbitration are often incorporated into employer promulgated internal dispute resolution systems. Outside the U.S. and Canada labor disputes are resolved at the factory level through works councils, with Labor Courts offering final resolution on a wide array of workplace issues. Conciliation, as it is usually referred to outside the U.S. and Canada, is beginning to play an increasingly important role in resolving disputes which are scheduled for hearing before national labor courts. This paper provides an overview of the use of conciliation in 18 national labor court systems in Europe, Australia and Israel. All countries surveyed show an increasing reliance on conciliation either before or during the processing of labor court cases, with the conciliation being done by external conciliators, conciliators employed by the courts, or by the labor court judges themselves

Conciliation has the benefit of helping the parties reach their own solution on issues which might go far beyond the matters to be litigated, a goal that is particularly desirable in ongoing employment relationships that will survive any immediate conflict. Additionally, it benefits the labor court system by reducing the ever increasing docket of cases, permitting judges to devote their limited time to the more complex and troublesome cases, while saving money and resources for all concerned Use of conciliation may also remove cases from litigation saving the parties and the courts additionally by obviating the need for time and money consuming litigation appeals. It could be argued that encouragement of conciliation may cost the parties for the services of a conciliator and may also deprive the court of the opportunity to make new law and precedents, but as the parties have always been encouraged to resolve their disputes on their own through negotiation, that precept should be equally applicable when the parties resort to the use of a facilitator to assist them in that effort.

The paper explores the experience with mandatory rather than voluntary conciliation, conciliation conducted prior to or during litigation, the role of the judge in conciliation, the qualifications and training of conciliators, and relative benefits of facilitative, transformational or evaluative approaches by conciliators. The conclusion of the labor court judges who provided the reports is uniformly positive in that conciliation has helped the parties reach better resolution of their problems, has helped the labor courts in their administration of labor laws and has helped demonstrate to society the benefits of the process with its potential expansion to other areas of conflict.

Philippines' port tariffs lowest in Asia: ESCAP

Philippines' port tariffs lowest in Asia: ESCAP
Gabriel U. Quemado III, Manila
Manila port charges for a 3,000-TEU containership are about one-sixth of the charges at Japan's Port of Yokohama, one-fourth of the cost in Hong Kong, and nearly a third of the rates in Sri Lanka.
ASEAN Trade - The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific's (ESCAP) comparative study on port tariff has announced the Philippines has the lowest port tariffs in the Asia-Pacific region.
The same study showed that notwithstanding this advantage, the country is not at par with its neighbours in terms of level of global competitiveness because of its failure to undertake modernisation programmes to upgrade port technology and facilities.
In fact, in terms of productivity, Philippine ports could use serious improvement.
The ESCAP study, released in New York, covered 21 ports in Japan, Australia, China (including Hong Kong), Singapore, New Zealand, India, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, and gave a comparative analysis of port tariffs in the region.
The report showed that total costs for a 3,000-TEU containership, including cargo handling, are lowest in Manila - based on nominal exchange rates.
ESCAP found that Manila port charges for a 3,000-TEU containership are about one-sixth of the charges at Japan's Port of Yokohama, one-fourth of the cost in Hong Kong, and nearly a third of the rates in Sri Lanka.
Compared to those in Manila, port charges are higher by 33 percent in Indonesia, 50 percent in Malaysia, 60 percent in Vietnam and 80 percent in both India and Pakistan.
The same study noted, however, that while wharfage, cargo handling and other port charges are relatively low in the Philippines, port facilities in the country are not as modern as those of many of its Asian neighbours.
The government needs billions to upgrade its ports and put it on competitive footing with its Asian counterparts, but it is highly unlikely that the Philippines could generate enough revenue from taxes and port collections to finance much-needed modernisation and expansion programmes.

Union calls for Gov't intervention in ferry dispute

Union calls for Govt intervention in ferry dispute
12 February 2009
By Sydney Branch media release -
Opposition grows as rail bus and building workers join the protest
Rail, bus and building workers will join maritime workers and friends of Sydney Ferries protesting against the non union Bass and Flinders ferry service at Circular Quay Wharf 2 this afternoon at 3pm.
The new service has slashed the wages and conditions of the workforce, as well as compromising safety standards on the Harbour.
Sydney Branch Secretary Warren Smith today called on NSW Transport Minister David Campbell to intervene in the dispute to protect workers' rights and ensure the new ferry operation does not undermine wage, condition and safety standards.
"We call on the minister to fix the problem before it gets even bigger," said Mr Smith. "We have the support of UnionsNSW, the South Coast Labour Council and key unions are already mobilising members to join the protest, of around 100 people each afternoon. Let's not turn this into Patricks by the sea."
Mr Smith also said the union stood by its comments made earlier in the week on how the new operation offered second rate safety standards.
"We are keeping a log of incidents and will be making this public every few days," he said.
Contact: Warren Smith 0400 368945

Union victory on the Harbour

Union victory on the Harbour
18 February 2009
By Sydney Branch news release -
Manly Fast Ferry dispute settled as management and MUA agree to work together
The weeklong dispute between Bass and Flinders and the Maritime Union of Australia was settled this morning, with both parties signing off on an agreement to raise both wages and safety for the Manly Fast Ferry.
"It's a win for commuters and a win for the workers," said MUA Sydney Branch Secretary Warren Smith. "Commuters will get the insurance of a service that will maintain the highest community and safety standards, the workers will get decent wages and conditions. It's all we ever wanted."
However Mr Smith also called for the NSW government In future to give proper consideration to workers' rights in tendering processes.
Maritime workers and community supporters have been protesting the new service with picket numbers swelling to around 70 a day at Circular Quay.
Under question was the company decision to bypass the union, cutting back on wages and safety conditions on the new service at the same time undermining the public ferry service. Negotiations broke down last week and the union has been mobilising supporters daily, raising safety and wage issues while urging commuters to give the new fast ferry a miss.
This morning union officials and management met and agreed to work together, signing off on a heads of agreement, which includes
• Commitment to a union collective agreement
• guaranteed safe operating procedures
• 25 per cent pay rise for crew
The parties aim to finalise the agreement by March 31. All pickets and protests will stop while negotiations are under way.
Contact: Warren Smith, MUA

Making the Philippines as a "Flag of Choice" (Labor Issue)

"For those who doesn't know how to remember history are bound to repeat the same mistake". I am comparing the superiority of the Philippine seafaring industry as the world leader in LABOR deployment of seafarers around the globe and the great civilization of the Roman Empire. Who will ever wonder that the greatest civilization in that era will fall and devastated by the barbarians. Eventhough they have already the most advance technology in agriculture, shipping,military, laws and medicine etc....

If our government will continue to be lame ducks in their government position, who doesn't protect the future and urgent needs of our seafarers, I would not wonder that we will lose our dominance in the supply of quality seafarers in the shipping industry in the future.One visible solution is to make the Philippine a "flag of choice", wherein one of the mandatory requirements is to make Filipino crews their priority in manning their vessels.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First Subsea Crane for Lightweight Rope Handling

Cargotec’s MacGREGOR has developed technology for handling lightweight fibre rope that offers several advantages compared with traditional steel wire rope, and is about to install the world’s first subsea crane to use fibre rope. The knuckle-jib crane equipped with a system for fibre rope handling will be installed on the subsea vessel Havila Phoenix. The 250-tonne Hydramarine active heave-compensated (AHC) offshore crane is designed with a 250-tonne/3,000m single-line winch and is prepared for a 250-tonne single-line fibre rope

MacGREGOR’s technology for handling lightweight fibre rope rather than traditional steel wire rope offers several advantages that will meet the ever-increasing demands of the offshore industry as operators move further into deeper and more remote territories,” says Øystein Bondevik, sales director in MacGREGOR’s Offshore division. “For example, due to the neutralisation of the weight of the fibre rope in the water, much heavier loads can be handled without strain to the crane at unlimited depths. Consequently, overall safety is improved due to the lighter equipment, which can still carry out heavy work operations.”
As world demand for energy increases while current oil resources of oil-producing countries are depleting, the offshore industry is forced to unlock access to the untapped sources of world oil supply. The renewed focus of the offshore industry on exploration and exploitation due to the decrease in current oil supply deposits has resulted in the rapid development of subsea technology for both oil and gas procurement.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Case # 2

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation versus Chrysler Philippines Labor Union and Nelson Paras
G.R. No. 148738, June 29, 2004


Sometime in May 1996, petitioner Paras was rehired on a probationary basis as a manufacturing trainee at the Plant Engineering Maintenance Department. He started working on May 27, 1996. After evaluation by his immediate supervisors, pursuant to the company policy, petitioner Paras was given an average rating and was later informed that he would be regularized.

However, the Department and Division Managers and his supervisors again reviewed the performance evaluation made on Paras and unanimously agreed that his performance was unsatisfactory. Hence, on November 26, 1996, a Notice of Termination dated November 25, 1996 was given to petitioner Paras, informing him that his services were terminated on the said date since he failed to meet the required company standards for regularization.

The Union argued that Paras was dismissed on his 183rd day, or three days after the expiration of the probationary period; as such, Paras was already a regular employee.


Whether or not respondent Paras was already a regular employee on November 26, 1996

Case # 1

Radin C. Alcira versus NLRC, Middeby Philippines Corporation
G.R. No. 149859, June 9, 2004,


Petitioner Radin C. Alcira was hired by respondent Middleby as engineering support services supervisor on a probationary period for six months. Despite the indication of probationary period in the appointment paper, the dates indicated in the copies in the possession of the petitioner and the respondent, were different, May 20, 1996 and May 27, 1996, respectively. On November 20, 1996, unhappy with petitioner’s performance, respondent Middeby terminated the former’s services. But according to the petitioner he is already a regular employee effective November 16, 1996, using Article 13 of the Civil Code that one month is composed of 30 days, six months total 180 days. Hence, using May 20, 1996 as the reference point, it was already considered a dismissal since it was made after the lapse of his probationary employment.


Whether or not the termination occurred before or after the six-month period of employment

Loopholes in labor justice

Nov 2, 2008
Loopholes in labor justice
If you ask law practitioners to name some graft-ridden state agencies, chances are they will not fail to mention the National Labor Relations Commission. A lawyer who specializes in labor cases told me that fixing of cases is still rampant in the commission despite efforts by labor authorities to reform it and clean it up.
It’s commonplace to hear labor arbiters of the NLRC being denounced by complainants in labor disputes for inefficiency, partiality, undue delay and lack of fairness in deciding on cases. Just last year, Victoriano Calaycay was dismissed as commissioner upon Malacañang’s order after being caught in the act of receiving extortion money from a job recruiter.
Not a few arbiters involved in decisions-for-sale rackets have been fired or dismissed. Sen. Panfilo Lacson has blamed graft and corruption in this quasi-judicial body for backlogs that run up to thousands.
Fel V. Maragay, Manila Standard

NLRC dismisses cases filed by nurses vs. Sentosa

Friday, February 22, 2008

NLRC dismisses cases
filed by nurses vs. Sentosa

THE National Labor Relations Commission has dismissed the cases filed by the 31 Filipino nurses against Sentosa Recruitment Agency and its foreign principals.
The cases were filed by 31 Filipino nurses who are working in various long-term healthcare facilities in New York for alleged illegal dismissal, nonpayment of and underpayment of salaries, and other money claims.
In a 17-page decision penned by Executive Labor Arbiter Fatima Jambaro-Franco, the Labor commission said the complainants did not observe the requirement that they give notice to resign to their employers in advanced. Hence, they violated their employer’s contract and the Labor Code of the Philippines.
Among the complainants in the case were Juliet Anilao, Marriet Avila, Dulce Corazon Bayot, Annabelle Capulong, Marites Chan, Maricelle Dealo, Marie de la Cruz and Maritoni de la Rosa.
Named respondents were Sentosa Recruitment Agency, Francis Luyun, Bent Philipson and healthcare facilities in New York.
The commission’s decision, which was written on January 24, declared that under contract, at least two weeks notice of intent to resign is required, and under the Labor Code of the Philippines, at least one month notice is required. Either of the required notification was not observed by the 31 nurses.
Franco said all the complainants tendered their resignation letters, hence they cannot claim illegal dismissal, either actual or constructive.
On money claims, Franco found out that the payslips of the 31 nurses clearly showed that they were paid a salary rate of $24 per hour even if their contract only states a minimum of $22. In fact, one nurse was even paid $40 per hour.
The latest decision from the Labor body is the third consecutive case lost by the nurses in the Philippines against Sentosa. The Filipino nurses are also into legal battles in the US.
Art. 2176. Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter. (1902a)
Art. 2177. Responsibility for fault or negligence under the preceding article is entirely separate and distinct from the civil liability arising from negligence under the Penal Code. But the plaintiff cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant. (n)
Art. 2178. The provisions of Articles 1172 to 1174 are also applicable to a quasi-delict. (n)
Art. 2179. When the plaintiff's own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. But if his negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury being the defendant's lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded. (n)
Art. 2180. The obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one's own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible.
The father and, in case of his death or incapacity, the mother, are responsible for the damages caused by the minor children who live in their company.
Guardians are liable for damages caused by the minors or incapacitated persons who are under their authority and live in their company.
The owners and managers of an establishment or enterprise are likewise responsible for damages caused by their employees in the service of the branches in which the latter are employed or on the occasion of their functions.
Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks, even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry.
The State is responsible in like manner when it acts through a special agent; but not when the damage has been caused by the official to whom the task done properly pertains, in which case what is provided in Article 2176 shall be applicable.
Lastly, teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades shall be liable for damages caused by their pupils and students or apprentices, so long as they remain in their custody.
The responsibility treated of in this article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage. (1903a)
Art. 2181. Whoever pays for the damage caused by his dependents or employees may recover from the latter what he has paid or delivered in satisfaction of the claim. (1904)
Art. 2182. If the minor or insane person causing damage has no parents or guardian, the minor or insane person shall be answerable with his own property in an action against him where a guardian ad litem shall be appointed. (n)
Art. 2183. The possessor of an animal or whoever may make use of the same is responsible for the damage which it may cause, although it may escape or be lost. This responsibility shall cease only in case the damage should come from force majeure or from the fault of the person who has suffered damage. (1905)
Art. 2184. In motor vehicle mishaps, the owner is solidarily liable with his driver, if the former, who was in the vehicle, could have, by the use of the due diligence, prevented the misfortune. It is disputably presumed that a driver was negligent, if he had been found guilty or reckless driving or violating traffic regulations at least twice within the next preceding two months.
If the owner was not in the motor vehicle, the provisions of Article 2180 are applicable. (n)
Art. 2185. Unless there is proof to the contrary, it is presumed that a person driving a motor vehicle has been negligent if at the time of the mishap, he was violating any traffic regulation. (n)
Art. 2186. Every owner of a motor vehicle shall file with the proper government office a bond executed by a government-controlled corporation or office, to answer for damages to third persons. The amount of the bond and other terms shall be fixed by the competent public official. (n)
Art. 2187. Manufacturers and processors of foodstuffs, drinks, toilet articles and similar goods shall be liable for death or injuries caused by any noxious or harmful substances used, although no contractual relation exists between them and the consumers. (n)
Art. 2188. There is prima facie presumption of negligence on the part of the defendant if the death or injury results from his possession of dangerous weapons or substances, such as firearms and poison, except when the possession or use thereof is indispensable in his occupation or business. (n)
Art. 2189. Provinces, cities and municipalities shall be liable for damages for the death of, or injuries suffered by, any person by reason of the defective condition of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings, and other public works under their control or supervision. (n)
Art. 2190. The proprietor of a building or structure is responsible for the damages resulting from its total or partial collapse, if it should be due to the lack of necessary repairs. (1907)
Art. 2191. Proprietors shall also be responsible for damages caused:
(1) By the explosion of machinery which has not been taken care of with due diligence, and the inflammation of explosive substances which have not been kept in a safe and adequate place;
(2) By excessive smoke, which may be harmful to persons or property;
(3) By the falling of trees situated at or near highways or lanes, if not caused by force majeure;
(4) By emanations from tubes, canals, sewers or deposits of infectious matter, constructed without precautions suitable to the place. (1908)
Art. 2192. If damage referred to in the two preceding articles should be the result of any defect in the construction mentioned in Article 1723, the third person suffering damages may proceed only against the engineer or architect or contractor in accordance with said article, within the period therein fixed. (1909)
Art. 2193. The head of a family that lives in a building or a part thereof, is responsible for damages caused by things thrown or falling from the same. (1910)
Art. 2194. The responsibility of two or more persons who are liable for quasi-delict is solidary. (n)

Unfair labor practice

Unfair labor practice

Definition Noun
: any of various acts by an employer or labor organization that violate a right or protection under applicable labor laws
The unfair labor practices that are specified in the National Labor Relations Act are the following: 1) the interference, restraint, or coercion of employees in the exercise of their rights by an employer; 2) domination of a labor organization by an employer; 3) encouragement or discouragement of union membership by discrimination in hiring or conditions of employment by an employer; 4) discrimination against an employee for filing charges of or testifying regarding an unfair labor practice by an employer; 5) refusal of an employer to bargain with the collective bargaining agent; 6) restraint or coercion of employers or employees by a labor organization; 7) coercion of an employer by a labor organization to discriminate against an employee; 8) refusal of a labor organization to bargain collectively with an employer; 9) engaging in illegal strikes or boycotts by a labor organization; 10) excessive or discriminatory initiation fees for a labor organization; 11) coercion of an employer by a labor organization to pay for work not done; 12) picketing by a labor organization to force an employer to recognize or employees to select another collective bargaining agent when there has already been an election.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Remember, a seafarer's employment is CONTRACTUAL. The rights and obligations of the seafarer to the company and vice-versa START AND END with every contract.

Therefore, the salaries, benefits, etc. are something that should have been threshed out before the contract starts. No matter what drama is involved here, these things are economy driven. Remember the LAW OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND. Too many ratings (excessive supply), price goes down; too few officers (very low supply), price goes up.

Tell them to stop crying. As held in the Millares case, we can see that the company has NO OBLIGATION to rehire anyone, not even CHIEF ENGINEERS.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Toyota to cut hours, offer buyouts to US workers

DETROIT : Toyota Motor Corp on Thursday offered buyouts to some 18,000 US workers and said it would cut pay for executives and blue-collar workers

in its North American manufacturing operations in response to plunging auto sales.

The Japanese automaker said it would shut down production for additional days in April at plants in the United States , Canada and Mexico . It said it would also cut pay and eliminate bonuses for executives.

The unprecedented cost-cutting steps for Toyota underscored how the world's top automaker and a perennial blue chip in a notoriously volatile sector is struggling amid the worst auto slump in decades.

Toyota said the moves were intended to keep as many of its North American workers on the payroll as possible.

"We hope the new measures will help us adjust while protecting jobs," Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing Vice President Jim Wiseman said.

Toyota is on track to post an operating loss of some $4..95 billion for the fiscal year that ends in March. The loss will be the first group-wide operating loss in Toyota 's 70-year history.

The automaker has cut North American production of top-selling cars such as the Camry and Corolla after sales dropped 15 per cent in 2008 in the United States , Toyota 's largest single market.

It has also suspended work on a new plant in Mississippi , slated to produce its Prius hybrid car beginning in 2010. Rivals Honda Motor Co Ltd and Nissan Motor Co Ltd have also been forced to cut output.

Toyota said the buyout program would not be offered at two plants where its workers are unionized.

Those are the joint venture manufacturing operations it has in California with General Motors Corp and a truck assembly plant in Tijuana , Mexico , the company said.

Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said the automaker expected most of its cost savings would come from the executive pay cuts, lower bonuses, frozen wages and the savings from paying factory workers for a 10 per cent cut in work hours.

"In this economy we don't expect many people to take the exit program," he said.

Such buyout programs have become common in the past three years at US rivals GM, Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co.

Both GM and Chrysler, which have received US government funding, are offering incentives to hourly workers to retire or leave the payroll.

Toyota , whose sales fell 34 per cent in January, is also planning to implement a program at some plants that would reduce work hours to 72 from 80 over a two-week period. As a result, workers would be paid 10 per cent less.

The automaker has not yet decided which plants would adopt the new program, Goss said.

Like its rivals, Toyota has been stung by the collapse in US demand for cars and trucks, a downturn that accelerated in October and November amid tightening credit and deepening consumer uncertainty.

US auto sales in January plunged to an annualized rate of 9.5 million, the lowest in 27 years.

Toyota has about 30,000 workers in its North American manufacturing operation.

That includes about 25,000 hourly workers. Toyota 's two Canadian plants employ just over 6,000 workers. Another 1,000 work at its Tijuana plant.

Does globalization protect our "laborers"? (By: Marlon)

The uneven benefits of globalization are creating a growing divide between rich and poor countries, accdg. to the United Nations' labor organization. The report found that 188 million people are unemployed worldwide, or 6.2 percent of the labor force; that the gap between rich and poor nations has widened, with countries representing 14 percent of the world's population accounting for half the world's trade and foreign investment; and that in the developing world, women have been harmed more than men by globalization. The report also said that women's traditional livelihoods as subsistence farmers or small producers have been undermined by foreign subsidized agriculture or foreign imports but, as women, they face cultural barriers when looking for alternative occupations.

The gap between rich and poor has grown wider .Globalization's ''volatility threatens both rich and poor,'' the report said. ''Open societies are threatened by global terrorism, and the future of open markets is increasingly in question.'' Among the suggestions offered to expand the benefits of globalization were: improved international governance, more transparency in trade laws, better protection for people and goods crossing borders, increasing development assistance to poorer nations and better enforcement of international labor standards and immigration rights. Arguing that globalization has its most direct effect on people through their work and employment, the report called for the enforcement of the four core international labor standards. They are the right to organize and bargain collectively, the elimination of compulsory labor, the abolition of child labor and the ending of discrimination in employment.

Oil spill fluorosensing lidar for inclined onshore or shipboard operation

An oil spill detection fluorosensing lidar for onshore or shipboard operation is described. Some difficulties for its operation arise from the inclined path of rays. This is due to the increased reflection of the laser beam at the air-water interface, the decreased fluorescence signal, and the increased background light when compared with other instruments having a close-to-nadir measuring geometry. The analysis of these problems shows that they significantly reduce the detection distance in the presence of a flat water surface. However, waves on the water surface weaken the influence of the laser beam reflections but at the same time cause a variable fluorescence signal, which makes specific signal processing necessary for increased detection ranges. A fluorescence data processing method is proposed that efficiently eliminates the background water column fluorescence from signals such as yellow substance. This enables oil fluorescence to be distinguished from variable natural water fluorescence.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stolt Nielsen Ratings Concerns

(apologies capt. tormon, but i cannot cut the message short, the momentum will be lost)

-----Original Message-----
From: Stolt Invention - Crew User [mailto:
Sent: Friday, 2009 January, 30 13:16 PM

To: Stolt Vestland - Crew User,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,;,,;,,;,,,

The Ratings here in Stolt Invention fully agree with what is written below, and were hoping also that this would give us (the
Ratings) the opportunity to express how we really fell with how our management is treating us as a member of their so called
Family. Yes we are being ignored for a long time and with this present situation with our economy, We "the Ratings" need to be
in one voice to make the management hear and acknowledge our needs to coup up with the impact of the crisis. Our Income is now
getting lower and lower because of the Dollar depreciation and the continous increases of the basic commodities. With this
aspect we hope that the management should take a good look up also to the ratings as this Ratings are also making all the hard
and physical work in every (Tanker) Ship of Stolt possible, specially during cargo operations, tank cleaning and ships
maintenance. We might just be a Ratings but the management should accept the fact that every ship needs a Rating. lets just
hope that every word we add up to this awakening letter might make the management realized that we are really FORGOTTEN.

Lets Hope and Pray that the management would look back to us and include us AGAIN in their Family Cirle.

Please have your comments send also to the management so they would also know how we really fell with our status as ratings and
we agree with every single words in the letter below.

-----Original Message-----
From: Stolt Vestland - Crew User []
Sent: Friday, 2009 January, 30 06:10 AM

Calling all filipino ratings make a comment...Let's show them what is the true meaning of ONE FAMILY...So were asking all
Ratings to do your part, voice out, so it will be loud enough for the
management to hear our call. Please make a comment.

We the crew ratings of STOLT SAPPHIRE strongly agreed to your views regarding the present stand of us ratings in our company,
we do appreciate and thank the great effort of yours in staring this chain of letters. We are supporting your intention about
this matter and we are hoping nad praying hard that by this small medium youve made may our soft voices be heared and may it
brings a positive impact and a better realization to our companies system of management and a much tighter bond to our
relationship as one big family. We do hope that in the incoming revision of the CBA in conjunction to salary increase and
benefits may everbody enjoy regardless of their position onboard wheter an officer or a rating...


(from Stolt Saphire)

that might awakening the respective company, Yes! we're working here for a long time but we have
been "FORGOTTEN". Forgotten to those sweet words that might increase our salary, A words that we never achive for a long time.
I salute to those people who have a 'BRAVE HEART TO VOICE OUT WHAT WE NEED AS A RATINGS'. We are the ratings who always obey
thier command, we work hard everyday inspite of unfairness treat to us. So we should hold our hand to voice out what we need as
so called "Ratings"... GOD BLESS TO ALL OF US.

(from Stolt Markland)

In behalf of my fellow comrades here YES!!! We do agree We need to voice out for the sake of our fellow comrades who continue
to ignore this in order to secure the future of their family. This is a wake up call for all the ratings, we need to do
something about this.... We should not ignore this

We admire the brave soul who started this...

(from Stolt Eagle)

we, the crew of stolt topaz agreed and supporting to your intention.
hoping for the stolt management will reconsider and hear us.

(from Stolt Topaz)

(from Stolt Vinland)

We are the RATINGS serving on all Stolt Ships, or shall we call it the lowest level of the Crew in a ship, but for us this
doesn’t count how low we are, as we all have been serving the company for a very long time, which we can already consider the
company as our family (base on what our owners representative and other top officials in office always said “HERE IN STOLT WE
ARE ALL FAMILY AND WELL TAKE CARE OF YOU AND YOUR OWN FAMILY”). Speaking of a Family, the words itself describe that it is a
group of individuals that is taking care of each other and not only a specific or a certain individuals. But what is happening
now? Ratings are being taken for granted and almost forgotten. In this past years there have been so many changes in the
company specifically in wages, in which the Ratings basically is not much beneficial of such changes when it comes to salary.
Back in late year 2006 the management started the changes by removing the Ship Mechanic (SM) and Integrated Rating (IR)
position which resulted for the deduction of the Amir Bonuses for both positions which amounting to $ 100.00 for SM and $ 75.00
in IR in each salary respectively.

In the year after. January of 2007 the management imposes a wage changes which give the Ratings NOTHING or 0%, so basically
there is no increase at all on our side. But in other hand the higher level of crew which we call the OFFICERS (Filipino)
received a huge increase of 22% in their salary at that time. We didn’t reacted too much with this matter as the management
promises that, on the next changes it will be the Ratings turn to benefit more for the next round of increase. So the time pass
on, with a grief on the ratings heart and hoping that such grief would be relief by the time the promise given by the
management will be impose.

In January of 2008 another round of wage increase was given as “Again” promise by the management, but then it turns out that
the Ratings is once again not in the priority list or among the important list by the management, as the increase once again
turns out in the benefits of Officers “once more“, as they received this time a 15% increase on the wages while the Ratings got
only 7%, in which the total amount covered by such increase is not that much when you cover-up the Amir Bonus deducted in the
year 2006, so basically AGAIN, there is almost nothing in the Ratings, except for those who doesn’t affected by the Amir Bonus
liquidation off course. We are trying to accept our luck with this Company who used to be the best in its field and try to
accept what ever they can give us in return on all the hard work we are rendering while on board and hoping, that soon they
will try to look back also on us Ratings. But this is during the time while we are still trying to play blind on what is going
on. This late quarter of the year 2008 another big blow, the Ratings “ONCE AGAIN” when the management increases the Longevity
bonus of the Officers to 100% and nothing to the Ratings. As we all know longevity refers to the length of service rendered by
the crew on the company and not by the position and rank. With this changes a rating crew who have serves the company for 10 to
15 years are being compensated only with $60.00 per month, compares to a newly Officer who render a 3 years of service who is
already enjoying a $75.00 monthly compensation. This adjustment has been done only with in a year together with their 22%

This time before the year ends 2008, we received again another whistle blowing message from the management when they send us a
Christmas surprise e-mail which contain a 2009 wage scale. The scale doesn’t change that much on Ratings corner (off course)
except for the one (1) day additional for vacation pay which is equivalent to 11% (more or less) of the vacation pay . But when
we cross along the Officers corner another big hitting blow surprise us when there is a Chemical Tanker Allowance given to all
Officers Deck and Engine, which is equivalent to 10% of their base wage plus a one (1) day additional on their vacation pay.

“TANKER ALLOWANCE” just by understanding the word itself, it refers to the allowance allotted to all the crew who are working
on a Chemical Tanker ship regardless of Position, Rank and Department. But why is it that such allowance are only given to
officers on Deck and Engine? Should these benefits be shared to the entire crew of a Chemical Tanker Ship? For all we know, we,
the ratings are the most expose to chemicals (especially Deck department) compare to the officers. Ratings are the one taking
samples during cargo operations, regardless it is loading or discharging. Officers are only there to check for the sample
taken. Most of the time during cargo operation Officers stays only inside the Cargo Control Room to monitor the operation. How
about Tank Cleaning? We the Ratings are the one who are directly expose to chemical we are handling while doing Tank Cleaning
and gas freeing. From loading to discharging, tank cleaning to gas freeing, ejecting and drying, securing and preparation for
loading. We, the “RATINGS”, are the one directly involve in this situation.

Should this Health threatening nature of our job as a Rating be good enough to look up to, to consider our being eligible of
such allowance? Where are all those promises the management have given us? Are WE not a part of this FAMILY? Are we taken care

What are we trying to imply here is, why is the management can give the officers a ‘tanker allowance” and give nothing to the
Ratings? Why give Engineers a “tanker allowance” while Ratings don’t have any? We are all in a Tanker ship; we are all working
in the same type of ship. Why the management can increase the longevity bonus of the Officers and nothing to the Ratings? We
are all employed by Stolt Nielsen, we are all working in the same Company.

“AREN`T WE ALL FAMILY”? Should the Rating be taken care off also? Where is the fairness and equality? When we try to question
the people who represent the management about this unfairness, they use to tell us that “you have to accept what ever the
company is giving you and if you’re not satisfied with it, you can resign anytime as we can always find a 100 replacement for a
single rating”. This is how they professionally deal with us when we ask too much questions and may be, we always fall in their
bait, for us to just keep quite at the end.

To all Ratings, we have been ignored for a long time. We don’t have a voice inside the management; with this letter maybe our
grief and emotions will be heard. So were asking all Ratings to do your part, voice out, so it will be loud enough for the
management to hear our call. Please make a comment.

To all officers, this letter is not against you. This is the only way we know how to be heard and listened by the management
and with your support; this letter might be taken seriously by the management. We are not asking for too much, were only asking
for fairness and equality for all the crew of Stolt, Ratings and Officers. Please make your comment.

Concerned Ratings of Stolt Nielsen Transportation Group

ILO – Panama ratifies Maritime Labor Convention

GENEVA, Switzerland (ILO News) ─ The Ambassador of the Republic of Panama, HE Mr. Juan Alberto Castillero, today deposited the instrument of ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Panama, the largest flag State in the world, with nearly 25 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet flying its flag, is the fourth major shipping country in the world to ratify the Convention, adopted by the 94th International Labour Conference (Maritime) in Geneva in February 2006.
Panama’s ratification is especially significant because, combined with the ratifications by Liberia, the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Bahamas (the next three largest States), it means that seafarers working on more than 40 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet will be covered by the decent work requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 when it enters into force.
Panama’s ratification also means that one of the two requirements for entry into force (33 per cent of the world gross tonnage) is more than achieved. Progress in many other countries indicates that the second requirement for entry into force, ratification by at least 30 countries, is expected by 2011.
Sometimes called the “super convention”, the adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 saw governments, shipowners and seafarers agree on comprehensive international requirements for seafarers’ working and living conditions that also promote a level playing field for quality shipping in the rapidly growing maritime sector.
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said, “The decision by Panama to ratify this Convention underlines its commitment to taking a leadership role in the maritime industry and its desire to secure decent conditions of work for seafarers on its ships. With this ratification, one of the two conditions for the entry into force of this Convention has been fulfilled”.
HE Mr. Edwin Salamin Jaen, Minister of Labour and Social Development of the Republic of Panama said “I am proud that my country has decided to take the important step to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention and help to lead the way to promote decent work for all seafarers of the world. With this ratification, Panama is clearly demonstrating its commitment to ensuring quality shipping based on a strong socio-economic foundation. This must, of course, include ensuring conditions of decent work for all seafarers working on ships that fly the Panamanian flag, on top of our other measures to support international standards for ship safety, security and environmental protection”.
As early as 2006, during the adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, the Vice-President of Panama and Administrator of the Maritime Authority HE Mr. Rubén Arosemena Valdés had held out the prospect of Panama’s ratification. In 2007 and 2008, two ILO high-level tripartite missions visited Panama and discussed the relevant aspects of the Convention with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, with the Panama Maritime Authority and representatives of the social partners.
In June 2008, HE Mr. Martín Torrijos Espino, President of the Republic of Panama had, as guest of honour to the International Labour Conference, reiterated Panama’s commitment to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. In September 2008, Panama also played a leadership role in an important tripartite meeting of experts to adopt Guidelines for flag State inspection under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. On 6 January 2009, the President of the Republic signed Law No. 2, transposing the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 into national law.
The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, sets out a seafarers’ “bill of rights” and is intended to be the “fourth pillar” in the international shipping regulation complementing major maritime Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on environmental protection and ship safety and security. It establishes a strong compliance and enforcement mechanism based on flag State inspection and certification of seafarers’ working and living conditions. This is supported by port State inspection of ships to ensure ongoing compliance between inspections.
The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 also contains provisions allowing it to keep in step with the needs of the industry and help secure universal application and enforcement. It is a comprehensive Convention bringing together and updating 37 existing ILO Conventions and covers the minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship, conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, wages, leave, repatriation, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, occupational safety and health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fraudulent certification, fixers, extortion

"Overlapping functions breed fraudulent certification, corrupt fixers or go-betweens, extortion and inconsistencies in policy implementation," notes Tony Lane of SIRC.

He reveals that the International Maritime Organization lists Filipino seamen as having the most number of reported cases of fake papers. "There is a perception among the international shipping companies about the prevalence of fraudulent certificates among Filipino seafarers," Lane says.

After acquiring the necessary documents from the government agencies, the seafarer is ready for the market-theoretically. He goes to a manning agency, which requires him, before employment, to undertake specific training courses in a center connected, directly or indirectly, with the agency.

The training courses, such as the 10-day Basic Safety Course, costs between P3,000 to P5,000, depending on the training center. For officers, a special five to 10-day training course can cost from P 23,000 to P 47,000. There is even a special training school in Subic that charges in dollars.

There are also training schools where one need not be present for the duration of the course, as long as he pays the fee. Fortunately, these centers have been identified and blacklisted.

Often, the certificate issued by one training center is not acceptable to a manning agency that has its own training center. "So we have to undergo the same training, pay again, in another center suggested by the agency," say young seafarers who have gone through the ordeal.

By law, manning agencies are not allowed to charge seafarers recruiting fees. However, those who are lucky enough to get jobs are not surprised to see a monthly deduction from their salaries credited to the manning agency.


According to a survey conducted by the Apostleship of the Sea, the monthly salary of Filipino seafarers ranges between $400 to $3,000. The survey also showed that women, who work mostly as waitresses in cruise vessels, get as low as $50 a month, augmenting their meager salaries with tips given by passengers. The trend among recruiters therefore is to employ more female than male waiters, who have higher rates.

Normally, seamen retire early, at around 40 years of age, while senior officers take their leave from the sea at 45. Globally, shipping companies impose an age limit in hiring to ensure that the seafarers are healthy and physically fit, and they can save on medical costs.

On retirement, seafarers find work in seafarer manning agencies or as instructors in training and maritime schools. Some establish their own maritime schools in their hometowns, but others leave the seafaring life behind and open their own small businesses with their savings and pension.

But not everyone ends up this way. After 33 years of seafaring, a Cebuano chief engineer returned to an empty house. His wife had left him, his four children, whose schooling he financed while at sea, were married with lives of their own-- two worked in the United States, the other two in Cebu City.

Today he lives alone in a small house, moving about in a wheel chair, having lost one of his legs in an accident on his last voyage. His only source of funds is his pension, which hardly keeps him above water. Sometimes, his daughter in Cebu sends him money.

There are those who are even less lucky. Two years ago, avessel with a 16-man Filipino crew disappeared. It was last sighted in the China Sea, between China and Taiwan. No wreck was found, not even isolated debris or a tell-tale corpse, as if the vessel and its men were swallowed by a sea monster. Although the families of the missing seamen received $50,000 each as compensation, they continue to hope for the return of their sons, husbands and fathers.

Filipino seafarers face declining demand

THE Philippines is the largest supplier of seafarers in the global labor industry. Some 180,000 Filipinos or 28.5 percent of the total maritime population of 632,000 are on board vessels worldwide. Russia is second with 7.3 percent.

Seafarers contribute about 10 percent of the total OFW remittances to the country, a major life-line of the Philippine economy.

But of the more than 500,000 registered Filipino seafarers, enough to man most of the vessels afloat around the world, more than 300,000 are unemployed.

Although Filipino seafarers are known to be "the best and most sought after in the maritime industry," according to Professor Tony Lane of the Seafarers International Research Center (SIRC) in Cardiff University, United Kingdom, "the demand for Philippine seafarers is tapering off." From 19.8 percent of Filipino seafarers deployed in 1995, only 3.4 percent were on board between 2000 and 2001, according to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).


Appellant Ernesto Francisco, a Philippine national, was injured on a chemical tanker ship located on the Mississippi River. Francisco was employed aboard the M/T Stolt Achievement (the vessel), which was allegedly operated by Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group, Inc., (Stolt) a Liberian corporation.
Stolt's "Crewing Manager" submitted an affidavit attesting that when Stolt hires Philippine seamen, it must comply with employment contract requirements of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. Francisco signed such a contract. The contract contains lengthy provisions addressing employee compensation and benefits in the event of work-related injury, illness, or death. It provides in section 29 of the "Standard Terms and Conditions" that in the event of "claims and disputes arising from this employment," the parties agree to arbitrate their disputes in the Philippines.(1) Section 31 of the same document provides that "[a]ny unresolved dispute, claim or grievance arising out of or in connection with this Contract . . . shall be governed by the laws of the Republic of the Philippines, international conventions, treaties and covenants where the Philippines is a signatory."
Francisco sued Stolt in Louisiana state court, asserting claims under the Jones Act(2) and under general maritime law for unseaworthiness and for maintenance and cure. He alleged that suit in state court was authorized by the saving to suitors clause of 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1).
Stolt removed the case to federal district court, alleging that Francisco had signed an employment contract agreeing to arbitrate claims against Stolt in the Philippines, and that this agreement was subject to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the Convention),(3) a convention to which the United States and the Philippines are both signatories. The United States implemented the Convention in 1970 through the enactment of 9 U.S.C. §§ 201-208 (hereinafter the Convention Act). Francisco filed a motion to remand the case to state court, and Stolt filed a motion to compel arbitration under 9 U.S.C. § 206. The district court denied the motion to remand, granted the motion to compel arbitration, and dismissed the suit. This appeal by Francisco followed.

DOLE inks MOA to form council for maritime cases

MANILA — The Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) forged a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with maritime industry leaders for the creation of Maritime Industry Labor Arbitration (Mila) that will fast track the resolution of the maritime cases pending with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB).
The agreement signed last Tuesday between Labor Acting Secretary Marianito Roque and heads of different maritime organizations and agencies is hoped to pursue the voluntary arbitration as a mode of settling labor disputes within the industry.
Roque said the parties agreed to create Mila council where the NCMB will act as its secretariat and members will come from the government, manning agencies, and seafarers.
According to Roque, the government initially set aside P15,000 per case and the funding will come from the budget of NCMB.
He said the “purpose of creating Mila is for the immediate and voluntary resolution of the case because it would greatly help the seafarers.”
Asked how many cases the council will cover, Roque said they have no exact figure yet but they will check on the records of the NLRC where majority of the labor cases are pending and being filed.
He said a drafting committee has been assigned by the council to check on the cases and work on the guidelines. They are hoping they will complete the rules and gather all the needed data in the next two weeks.

Maritime Labor Push - 02 February 2009

A seafarers' group has vowed to intensify its push for the adoption of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) by the International Labor Office (ILO) to protect Filipino seafarers boarding international vessels.

The International Seafarers' Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation Inc. said adopting the convention will advance not only their rights but their welfare as well.

"There is a need for the unified action by the seafarers' themselves to push for the Philippines' ratification of the MLC," said ISAC President Edwin dela Cruz in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

Diane Lynn Respall, senior program assistant of the ILO Philippine Office, said the speed of the adoption and ratification of the MLC depends on how the social dialogues are going. She said it also depends on the political will of the government to speed up the ratification process.

But lawyer Joseph Entero, ISAC vice-president and general secretary, voiced fears that vested interests of some government officials would block the ratification of the MLC.

ISAC officials said that aside from organizing the seafarers, they would also tap the ILO and other civil society groups such as the Filipino Seafarers' Movement (FSM), the Catholic-led Apostleship of the Sea, and other institutions to help them disseminate information about, and to push for, the ratification of this important international instrument for seafarers.

Norwegian suits to Philippines? Cruise line likely to seek transfer (cont.)


The legal confrontation over the Norway's engine explosion -- still under federal investigation -- is likely to heat up because Norwegian and its parent company, Star Cruises, stand to lose millions of dollars at trial or in settlements if the Filipinos' suits are allowed to stay in Miami.

Veteran Miami attorney William Huggett, who is representing five killed and five injured Filipino seamen, including Valenzuela, predicted that the Miami federal court would keep his suits here.

"[Norwegian] will try every trick in the book, and they're going to lose," Huggett said. The seamen signed their labor agreements with Norwegian through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. The government agency, a branch of the Philippine Department of Labor, is responsible for managing and regulating the country's more than 150,000 workers in the seafaring trades. Because of poverty at home, Filipino seamen covet cruise line jobs.

"The [agency's] overriding mission is to protect our overseas workers," said Henry Bensuro, first secretary and consul at the Philippines Embassy in Washington.

That contention, however, has been disputed in U.S. courts for more than a decade.

Attorneys for seamen argue the Filipino workers often don't understand the employment agreement or realize that the cruise lines pay their dues to a seafarers' union. The lawyers also claim the crew workers are still protected by federal maritime law because the cruise lines operate in major U.S. ports, allowing the seamen to have their day in court in this country.

1999 CASE

In a 1999 Filipino seaman's injury case against Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, Philippines Solicitor General Ricardo P. Galvez supported this argument in an affidavit. "[The Philippines] expressly recognizes the right of the Filipino seafarer to institute suit against his employer or shipowner before the court of foreign countries."

But the cruise lines, including Norwegian, counter that if a crew member is injured or killed, the matter must be decided by labor arbitrators in the Philippines.

In that same Royal Caribbean case, an arbitrator for the Philippine National Labor Relations Commission backed the cruise lines. In an affidavit, Salimathar v. Nambi said his government "has determined that all claims by Filipino seaman working abroad must be filed in the Philippines."

Federal appellate courts in California, New York and Louisiana have allowed seamen's cases to be shipped to the Philippines, saying their job contracts fall under Filipino law.

South Florida federal courts have rejected that argument, primarily because the cruise lines garner much of their profits from Miami-based operations and are therefore subject to federal laws.

But in March, a Miami federal judge, citing a 2002 appellate decision in New Orleans, ordered that a Filipino seaman's injury claim against Carnival Cruise Lines be sent to the Philippines.

U.S. District Judge Paul Huck said the Filipino was bound by the arbitration provision in his employment contract between Carnival and the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration. The seaman is contesting Huck's decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

"If they have the possibility of convincing the court that these cases belong in the Philippines instead of here," said Miami attorney Luis A. Perez, "the savings for Norwegian Cruise Lines would be significant at the expense of the seamen and their families."

Norwegian suits to Philippines? Cruise line likely to seek transfer

Norwegian Cruise Line is likely to try to transfer lawsuits filed on behalf of Filipino seamen killed or burned in a boiler blast to their homeland, a move meant to help the firm avoid paying potentially tens of millions of dollars in damages, maritime lawyers say.

If recent federal court rulings are any guide, Norwegian might succeed in removing the injury claims arising from the deadliest U.S.-based cruise ship accident in a decade.

A Miami federal judge would be asked to send complaints brought by attorneys representing killed and injured Filipinos on the SS Norway to the Philippines, where damage awards for seafarers are in the tens of thousands of dollars.

In a unique relationship, the Philippine government negotiates the seamen's employment contracts with Norwegian and other Miami-based cruise lines -- including a clause requiring that the Filipinos' injury claims be decided by arbitrators in their native country.

During the past decade, the cruise lines, including Norwegian, have relied on their employment agreements with Filipino seafarers as a means to remove their injury claims from courts in this country. Last year, a Miami federal judge granted Norwegian's request to send a busboy's injury case to the Philippines, but after an appeal, it was settled out of court here.


In the May 25 explosion at the Port of Miami-Dade, six of the seven killed and 15 of the 17 injured were Filipinos. So far, 14 Norway crew members and their families have sued Norwegian in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. More suits are expected.

For Norwegian, owned by the Malaysian firm Star Cruises, the jurisdictional fight comes down to money, maritime attorneys say.

"The way I see it, keeping the cases in [Miami] will be the real battle in this whole thing," said longtime admiralty attorney Charles Lipcon, who is representing a Norway victim who is Nicaraguan. "What would be a [single] judgment in a U.S. court for, say, $1 million will be $10,000 in the Philippines."

A Jamaican crew member also was killed, and his family has filed suit against Norwegian. But only the Philippines has an agreement with the cruise lines involving legal claims.

Norwegian spokeswoman Susan Robison declined to comment on the company's legal strategy, saying its insurer would decide the defensive course of action. Norwegian's attorney, Curtis Mase, also refused to discuss it.

The Norway cases could be affected by recent federal court and appellate decisions in Miami and New Orleans that ordered sending past Filipino seamen's complaints back to their country because of their employment contracts.

"The court will have to look at whether they want to deprive Philippine families their access to U.S. law for an accident that happened in Miami, Florida, on a cruise line in Miami, Florida," said attorney Brett Rivkind, president of the Florida Admiralty Trial Lawyers Association.

For the injured Filipino workers and relatives of the killed Filipino crew members, removal of their suits could be devastating. The Filipino victims on the Norway were their family's breadwinners, sending home their monthly wages, from $300 to $1,000, according to one widow.

Cristina Valenzuela, whose husband, Candido, died in the blast, said she is all but penniless. The mother of four has hired a Miami lawyer, who filed a negligence suit seeking $5 million for lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. Candido, 49, had worked 16 years for Norwegian, most recently as a boiler worker.

The widow said in a phone interview that she doesn't want her case transferred to the Philippines. "It would be bad if that would happen, but I haven't heard anything," said Valenzuela, who said three Norwegian officials attended her husband's June 10 funeral, offering condolences. "They did not talk to me about money," she said.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bangladesh: Garment Workers Under Attack:

Oready Daily writes: “Hundreds of workers and their supporters battled police in the capital of Bangladesh on Friday in response to the beating death of one of their own by company goons. reports (see below) last Wednesday (30th Jan) two workers in World Dresses Ltd, Mirapur, Dhaka, The two were apparently almost the last of the workforce on the premises at 8pm, as they were washing themselves before leaving. Five officials appeared and accused them of loitering with intent to rob the company. They took the men to upper floor and started beating them mercilessly. Although they were seriously injured the garment officials did not take them to hospital immediately. One of the men died the other remains in the hospital in bad condition. The dead man was later identified as Mohammad Khokon, 23. The injured worker is Abdul Malek. Police said several officials and security guards of the factory were responsible for the beating. The unrest that the incident created led to work stoppage in many factories in the area. More than 500 workers tried to put up barricades on a busy highway that connects the capital with southern and western Bangladesh and were attacked by police.” (Infoshop News / Independent Bangladesh, 02/04/08)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

SC Orders Northwest to pay Seaman nearly P1M

MANILA, Philippines (Feb.10,2008) -- The Supreme Court has ordered Northwest Airlines to pay nearly P1 million in damages to a Filipino seaman who was bumped off a United States-bound flight in favor of an American passenger and thus failed to report to his job on the scheduled date.
In its ruling, the high court gave credence to the complaint of seaman Steven Chiong that he was at the airport three hours ahead of his scheduled flight on April 1, 1989, but was not issued a boarding pass and thus was unable to board the flight, contrary to Northwest's claim that Chiong did not show up at the airport on that date.
The high tribunal also affirmed the findings of the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals.
According to the Supreme Court, Northwest acted in an "oppressive manner" toward Chiong although the latter was able to present evidence that he was at the airport on the day of his scheduled flight. Chiong was barred from boarding the plane after being given the "runaround" and his name was crossed off the passenger list and replaced with that of an American.
"It is borne out by the records that Chiong was given the runaround at the Northwest check-in counter, instructed to deal with a 'man in barong' to obtain a boarding pass, and eventually barred from boarding Northwest Flight No. 24 to accommodate an American, W. Costine, whose name was merely inserted in the flight manifest and did not even personally check in at the counter," the high court said in its Jan. 31 decision.
The court awarded Chiong $8,400 (around P300,000 then) in compensatory damages; P15,000 in actual damages; P200,000 in attorney's fees and P400,000 in moral and punitive damages.
In his complaint, Chiong said he arrived at the airport three hours before his flight to the US where he was to work as third engineer on the M/V Elbia in San Diego, California. He first went to the Coast Guard counter to get his clearance.
He then went to check in at the Northwest counter, but was told his name was not on the passenger list. He was made to speak to a barong-clad man who demanded $100 in exchange for the boarding pass.
Chiong did not have the money and thus failed to board his flight. He was only able to leave the country on April 17.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Seafarers to Push Adoption of 2006 Maritime Labor Convention

MANILA, Philippines - A seafarers' group has vowed to intensify its push for the adoption of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) by the International Labor Office (ILO) to protect Filipino seafarers boarding international vessels.The International Seafarers' Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation Inc. said adopting the convention will advance not only their rights but their welfare as well."There is a need for the unified action by the seafarers' themselves to push for the Philippines' ratification of the MLC," said ISAC President Edwin dela Cruz in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.Diane Lynn Respall, senior program assistant of the ILO Philippine Office, said the speed of the adoption and ratification of the MLC depends on how the social dialogues are going. She said it also depends on the political will of the government to speed up the ratification process.But lawyer Joseph Entero, ISAC vice-president and general secretary, voiced fears that vested interests of some government officials would block the ratification of the MLC.ISAC officials said that aside from organizing the seafarers, they would also tap the ILO and other civil society groups such as the Filipino Seafarers' Movement (FSM), the Catholic-led Apostleship of the Sea, and other institutions to help them disseminate information about, and to push for, the ratification of this important international instrument for seafarers. - GMANews.TV

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pros and cons of unionization

Pros and cons of unionization
From an employee's standpoint, the benefits of union representation in the seafood processing industry include:
• better wages
• protected rehire rights
• better benefits
• full or majority airfare to job site
• notification of job openings
• protection from unsafe or illegal working conditions
• professional representation in labor or management disputes
• protection from discrimination and arbitrary termination
• camaraderie
There are few short-term drawbacks of unionization from a worker's standpoint. Dues, which amount to anywhere from $60 to $200 a season, are the only real negative.
Cannery owners generally consider the costs of a unionized work force greater than the benefits. The seafood processing industry is very competitive. Labor, safety, and employee benefit costs are major expenses, and can jeopardize profits. Especially if only a few plants are unionized, it can be tough for a unionized plant to compete. When this happens, unionized plant managers sometimes respond by reducing labor costs (either through labor negotiations or by breaking the union) or by shutting down. Few corporations willingly settle for lower profits, and no one wants to shut down, so many seafood processing workers' wages and benefits have been cut in recent years.

Founder of Labor Day

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

3 Elements of Labor Law

a) Labor Policies. These are principles or guidelines that define State policies regarding labor and employment. Although these policies do not govern the relations per se between workers and employers, they represent a new dimension that is an integral part of labor law. Labor policies may be classified into Constitutional policies

b) Labor Standards Law. From the definition of labor law, as given, one may cull a definition of labor standards law, to wit; "It is that body of statutes, rules and doctrines that governs the rights and duties of workers and employers respecting terms and conditions of employment by prescribing certain standards therefore," These standards, whether maximum or minimum, serve as bases of the rights and duties of workers and employers. Examples of labor standards laws are Book III- Conditions of Employment, Labor Code, as well as the decrees on Cost of Living Allowance (PD 525) and on 13th Month Pay (PD 851

c) Labor Relations Law. Our given definition of labor law also contains a working definition of labor relations law. This can be collated from these words, "It is that body of statutes, rules, principles and doctrines that governs the rights and duties of workers and employers by establishing a legal framework within which better terms and conditions of work could be obtained through collective bargaining or other concerted activity. "This element of labor law sets the legal parameters whereby workers may undertake concerted activities to secure better conditions of employment than those prescribed by labor standards law. The prime example of this element of labor law is found in Book V-Labor Relations, Labor Code, and its amendatory laws.

Downturn in China leaves 26 million out of work

Around 20 million migrant workers have returned to the Chinese countryside after failing to find work in the cities because of the economic downturn, a senior official said today.
The figure - greater than the population of Australia - is double a previous official estimate and will heighten the concerns of the Chinese authorities about maintaining stability.
China sees tens of thousands of "mass incidents" each year and the authorities have issued a string of warnings to officials about the risks of the economic downturn exacerbating problems.
Mao Shoulong, a professor of public administration at Renmin University, said unrest often developed because there were not clear channels for expressing grievances and disadvantaged groups had no way to protect their rights and interests.
China has around 750 million rural residents; more than the combined populations of the United States and European Union. But growth in the countryside has lagged far behind the cities, with the rural-urban income gap expanding rapidly over the last two decades.