Basic questions about how unions work


I’m an MSC CIVMAR considering a career change, but I realized I don’t have a solid grasp of the relationship between the mariner, the union, and operating company. I’m hoping somebody can set me straight by answering some pretty basic questions about how this works. If it makes a difference, I’m looking specifically at AMO deep sea.

Who is the employer in this context, the union or the company? If it’s the latter, do you sign a new employment agreement for each assignment? Are you paid on a W2 or 1099? Is it common for a random assignment to mature into permanent employment? Is there any befit for a mariner to self-incorporate? Who manages 401k and health insurance? Do these health insurance plans work overseas? How common is it to be held overdue for relief, or be contacted before your vacation is over requesting you return to work?

Much appreciate any insight.

You work for the company. The union works for you. This is how it is supposed to work, in my union it does. Its your employment and dues that fund the union.
Your vacation check comes from the union when you file for vacation after you get off the ship.
Everything is w2.
You must be of a certain membership status to qualify for permanent employment. Its been many years but I believe its group 2 in MEBA. Coming from MSC you could have been paying dues to a union snd you could have jumped into a union with membership after a certain amount of dues paying years. I suspect you haven’t done this since you are green to how the process works.
With MEBA fidelity manages your 401k snd MPB.
The union health plan manages your Blue Cross Plan. This is easier than it sounds. Ask blue cross if it works overseas.
Reliefs on solid contracts are usually on time but the whole freaking industry is suffering, more do on lower paying ships. You are never obligated to return to work if you are on vacation status. This is why MEBA has a vacation plan, to protect you from the company demanding you return. You may still get a call and be requested to file for an early return but the union VP has to sign off on this.

What position are you sailing as? These answers can be very different when you compare unions.

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The company is your employer. You sign on with the company when you take a job with them. It’s all W2 work.

I would say the majority of AMO deep sea jobs are probationary to start and if all goes well the job is permanent after one hitch or sometimes 90 days depending on the company.

Only if you’re doing independent work. But even then, I’ve heard it doesn’t really do much for you. I don’t have a lot experience there. I don’t know anyone who sails exclusively AMO that in self incorporated.

Health Insurance is through Blue Cross Blue Shied and the 401k is Newport Group.

I think you’ll have to be more specific, do you live overseas or do you mean if you’re traveling? I’ve never tried to use my health insurance overseas, but there are a fair amount of AMO members who live in the PI/Thailand so maybe one of them can expound if they’re on the forum.

This varies contract to contract. There are a few companies who are notorious for calling to see if you’ll fill in elsewhere in the fleet on your vacation. Feel free to DM and I can share my experiences with said companies.


The company.

No. Once they ask you to come back once you’re a permanent employee of the company.


Almost all work at AMO is permanent if you want it to be.

None that I can see.

Both are through the union not the company.

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There’s the union contract with the company that gets negotiated but nothing signed by the crew member that I’m aware of aside from the ship’s articles.