European maritime social partners agree on working time aboard ships

Workers in the maritime sector were among those excluded from the 1993 EU working time Directive. Since then, the European social partners in the sector have been negotiating on maximum working hours and rest periods, and an accord was signed in December 1997 which aims to set binding standards.

The Federation of Transport Workers' Unions in the European Union (FST) and theEuropean Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA) agreed a joint text on working time and time off aboard ship in December 1997. The approximately 128,000 EU nationals and 26,000 non-EU nationals employed in the maritime sector are among the workers excluded from the provisions of the EU Directive (93/104/EC) on certain aspects of the organisation of working time.

In July 1997, the European Commission published a White Paper on sectors and activities excluded from the working time Directive, and is currently awaiting comments from the social partners (EU9707138N). In the White Paper, the exclusion of the various sectors is termed an anomaly and a variety of options are suggested for addressing these exclusions.

In the meantime, since the passage of the Directive, negotiations have been held within the framework of the Commission-sponsored Joint Committee on Maritime Transport in order to make Community-wide provisions for working time in the sector. In October 1996, FST and ECSA adopted a "joint opinion on the organisation of working time", in which they agreed to apply the provisions of the Directive to non-mobile staff. The social partners subsequently entered into negotiations on working time for mobile staff, on the basis of the 1996International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 180 on seafarers' hours of work and the manning of ships. In December 1997, a crucial agreement was reached on maximum working hours as well as rest periods to apply aboard ships, which appears to be based on the Convention. Further details will be provided in a forthcoming EIRO record.

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