SOCIAL AFFAIRS - THE HUMAN FACTOR
COMMISSION COMMUNICATION ON TRAINING AND RECRUITMENT
Constructive action necessary
Last year's Annual Report concentrated on the elements which ECSA, as well as the ETF (European Transport Federation), would wish to see included in the long anticipated Commission Communication on Training and Recruitment. In April, the Communication was published, with most of such points being included. Through stimulating a debate between the Community institutions it is hoped that the initiative will make a valuable contribution to tackling the difficulties being faced in the training and recruitment area.
While the Communication has the potential to make a positive impact, there are statements and views introduced which are extraneous to the core issue of the shortage of officers and which are inevitably controversial between Member States and between the social partners. Should such issues dominate the agenda in the coming months it will doubtless lead to sterile, inconclusive debate. To avoid this it will be important to focus on the key issues and on those possible measures on which there is a broad consensus between the social partners.
The elements of the Communication on which there is general agreement are as follows;
- It is recognised that in many Member States there is a current and forecast shortage of EU officers in particular and a danger that future maritime know-how, essential for the continued health of European maritime clusters, is at risk. The ISF/BIMCO (International Shipping Federation/The Baltic and International Maritime Council) and ECSA/ETF studies are both drawn upon extensively.
- It is proposed that there should be a greater use of the 1997 State Aid Guidelines to promote and safeguard employment and maritime know-how, notably through reductions in income tax and social security. Increased use of the EU Social and Structural Funds is also advocated.
- There is a need to improve the image of shipping as a career for young people through, inter alia, the development of career paths providing opportunities for both employment on board and ashore.
- Community funded research in the areas of profiling of suitable candidates, motivational factors that encourage seagoing careers and the greater use of technology to improve conditions on board.
- Initiatives are proposed relating to on board training places, to implementing more effectively the mutual recognition of certificates, to possibly recruiting officers from national navies, to upgrading of ratings into officers and to long distance learning.
- A recommendation that awareness campaigns at EU and/or national level to improve the image of the industry and to explain the opportunities for young people should be organised.
These elements would appear to have the potential to lead to positive, practical results. In contrast, the reference in particular to the 1998 proposed Manning Directive as a means of increasing the employment of seafarers would not seem helpful or practical. ECSA has expressed in the past its objections to the proposal both on grounds of principle and the danger it poses for similar protectionist action by third countries against EU seafarers employed on the international market. The proposal could consequently have a negative influence on EU seafarer employment. Moreover, the fear that there would be a growing number of non-EU seafarers on intra EU ferries, the main reason for the proposal, has not materialised over the three and a half plus years since it was published. The issue has been discussed at length in the Council and, due to there being few prospects of a consensus being reached, it has been effectively dropped with little likelihood that it will be revived in the foreseeable future. ECSA would advocate a similar approach in relation to the Communication.
As mentioned, to avoid the possibility of the Communication being de-railed by concentrating on controversial issues, it will be important to focus on practical matters on which there is common ground and on which practical progress can be made. It is hoped that this approach will be taken in the forthcoming debate within the EU institutions and between the social partners.
At the annual meeting of the Sectoral Dialogue Committee in October last a number of useful initiatives resulted. Firstly, on the 1999 Working Time directive, the social partners wrote to the Council President urging Member States to ratify Convention 180 and the Protocol to 147 so as to ensure simultaneous entry into force of the European and ILO (International Labour Organisation) instruments in June 2002. The Council Conclusions of December included wording to this effect and it is hoped that such ratification will be achieved so as to ensure a level playing field.
Secondly, it was agreed that a joint ECSA/ETF letter be sent to the relevant EU Commissioners drawing attention to the increasingly serious problem of Piracy and Armed Robbery with the request that it be taken up with the relevant Governments in the context inter alia of EU trade negotiations. Finally, it was agreed that a working group be established to discuss the implications of EU Enlargement as well as Occupational Health and Safety.
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