While the Court of Rotterdam’s decision in the Netherlands is disappointing, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the bodies’ affiliated unions vowed to continue the battle to achieve compliance with the Non-Seafarers’ Work Clause.
The Dutch court unfortunately refrained from immediately ordering a shipowner and manning agents to comply with the Non-Seafarers’ Work Clause, also known as the Dockers’ Clause.
The ITF, ETF and the bodies’ affiliated unions Nautilus NL, FNV Havens and Ver.di have long challenged the industry to comply with the clause and stop exposing seafarers to additional workplace health and safety risks and stop depriving dockers of their valuable work.
Despite the decision to dismiss the unions’ preliminary request to prohibit the lashing by seafarers immediately in advance of the results of main proceedings, unions believe that the agreement is clear that this cargo handling work must be undertaken by trained, experienced dockers when they are present; putting an end the dangerous practice of fatigued seafarers undertaking lashing.
According to the verdict, urgency for interim relief as a result of the non-compliance indeed exists. However, the presiding judge was of the opinion that more extensive judicial review would be necessary to examine the several factual and legal questions, according to the ruling. Disappointingly, the judge considered that the matter was too complicated for summary proceedings.
The case is the outcome of a joint effort by the unions. The clause negotiated to finally bring in the necessary protections, came into effect on 1 January 2020, following an agreement in February 2018. The above unions joined forces to enforce this on 3 June 2020, filing preliminary relief proceedings against manning agents Marlow Navigation Netherlands B.V. and Marlow Navigation Company Limited (registered in the Netherlands and Cyprus respectively) and shipowner Expert Shipping B.V in the Netherlands. Five charterer companies later made an application to the Court to join these proceedings.
Following today’s verdict, the maritime unions will continue to fight for compliance with the Non-Seafarers’ Work Clause to see it enforced in full on all vessels with ITF collective agreements.
The maritime unions are now considering whether to instigate appeal on the preliminary decision or proceed to the pending main proceedings where the Court will extensively examine the matter.