Time for Union reps on ships?

With the change of seafarer’s nationality and the way ships are managed, from crews from traditional seafaring nations with strong Unions and Owner management, to “3rd world” crews and ship management companies who operate on behalf of absentee owners (often financial institutions and speculators) the question of the working conditions on board has been raised:

MLC by itself has not been enough to ensure good and equal conditions for every seafarer and to weed out bad Owners/Managers apparently.

Do you mean the system that you have been championing for these past years could actually use some improvements? All the while telling us plebeian Americans that we don’t understand the industry because we haven’t traveled enough or haven’t read enough ‘unbiased’ news sources.

The system is working exactly how it was imagined by the owners, financial institutions, and speculators. Get slave labor wages and conditions, maximize profits, laugh all the way to the bank. We have been saying this for years and you have been telling us we don’t know what we are talking about. But by all means, troll on…


I can’t speak for the foreign flag vessels and crews, but never felt I was working for slave wages. Did I always want more? Well hell yea. It wasn’t/isn’t too bad here in the USA. Wages all over the place, some companies payed better than others. We knew who they were. One mans opinion , unions don’t need ride our vessels, just represent us fairly. I have no complaints.


One reason working & living conditions aren’t equal for all seamen in the world is because not all seamen are equal. Every culture is different with some more than others. A union rep on board won’t change that or improve anything IMO.

I have worked with Americans, Peruvians, Mexicans & Philippinos who loved to work 8-10 months a year & continued to do so no matter how many raises they received. While many consider even time schedules the only tolerable working condition I have seen people quit because of it.

I worked with a company that had a large presence in Nigeria & their boats there had union bosses on board. No matter how new or nice the boat was they all turned into pieces of shit within a year of being taken care of by the Nigerian crews. Nigerians just want to be nasty is all that I can figure. More nasty union reps won’t change that.

I have seen a Chief Mate try to improve the smell of a vessel & reduce the amount of flies everywhere by organizing & limiting the areas where the Asian-islander crew fished. He was a one hitch wonder because it was easier to find a CM who could live in filth then find Indonesians & Philippinos who preferred to be clean.

The last time I was a union member while working on ATB’s my assistant complained to the patrolman that the majority of the crew & Masters smoked inside the tug. The patrolman offered to help my assistant get a transfer to another boat. The patrolman was a smoker too & would smoke at his meetings in the galley. He was a union rep for the smokers against the PC crowd like my assistant & myself.

Having a union rep onboard does nothing besides give a union rep a job & reminds everyone how futile & corrupt things are. Too much drama IMO.

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The correct title of the crewmember that represents the crew is “union delegate”, not union rep. The delegate is a crew member picked by the crew.

Don’t know what was intended but saying “time for union reps on ships” seem to imply that the reps would be representing the “union bosses” ashore, not the crew on the ships.


You are right, that is the correct title and function of what in everyday terms are called a “Union Rep” on board ships.
I posted a link to an article, not making any statement about the merits of such a proposal. You may make your own opinion about the idea.

When I sailed on Norwegian ships with mostly Norwegian crews back in the early 1960s there was always someone elected as the “Union Rep” Some did a good job and some were “hot heads” that tried to make life difficult for the Master and Officers without doing much good for the crew.

I believe the present “culture” is much different now, at least among North European crews, as the old ways just caused an incentive for Owners to replace them with cheaper and more malleable crews from other parts of the world that complained less and didn’t get drunk at the wrong times.

As an Officer and Master I sailed mostly with Asia and Kanaka crews. I never missed the constant complains and drunkenness. If we had a crew problem it was a REAL problem that would be resolved on the ship by various means that would not be allowed today.

Those were the days when the Master was actually “in command” on his ship, at least where I sailed.

When I started out many years ago. I was a union member of a UK Union, which while the name changes regularly. Called itself an association back then.
The NUS was still in existence and I remember their last National Strike. I remember the last NUS ferry strikes. Crews all replaced by willing volunteers or S#& as I prefer to call them, D.O.T bending over backwards to assist the owners.

Last I heard the NUS no longer exists.

I ended up being laid off twice in the rush to eliminate the British Foreign Going Fleet, before finally signing on out of Hong Kong.
And was black listed from the British Officers Union. Who negotiated the contract for the Hong Kong operation.
The choice for me was simple. Employment or Unemployment.

Today that Union still exists and is still trying to expand in the offshore world. Collecting dues. I have my thoughts about what kind of union it is but it’s probably a forum violation.

Life led me to North America. I joined a Union or Guild. Most of the good jobs are Union some are non union. I paid a lot to be a member. I missed out on jobs because other guys were more senior.
I got a good job and the union stood by me when times got tough.
The best bit was overtime, after working as a mate in the UK and Hong Kong.
It was amazing just how well the ship could get by without calling me out early or late. I didn’t work much overtime.

We had to stand by the union though.
3 unions where I worked. The company got sold.
New owners wanted big concessions. Two other unions accepted concessions.
Our business agent said, the standard on this coast is. If you accept less it will spread. The standard is what it is. We keep the standard or we shut down.
We kept the standard. It didn’t last long company pulled out. But still the standard contract on this coast is a 12 hour day gets 1.24 days off.

I moved on to another union job.
Some shit I liked some I didn’t. Not to good at some of the new age politically correct stuff. Ended up in the shit. Union helped me out.

Spent several years bitching about the company the union and all the stuff we all bitch about. Complained loudly, A union rep suggested I was an ass hole and if I didn’t like it I should do something about it.
I figured he was right.

So I ran for and became a union rep. According to some people I am still an asshole.

I don’t get paid to be a rep. I don’t get any extra time off to be a rep. I do it on my on time mostly. though I do get covered if I do something on company time.
I’ve stood on a picket line, been threatened with being fired, been threatened with arrest. That was a long time ago.

Mostly, I help out people who have done stupid shit. Most people never need my help.
Sometimes I help people out because bad shit happened. When bad shit happens, The guys in charge get asked tough questions. You don’t want to be in the hot seat. You definitely shouldn’t be on your own,
Doesn’t matter how bad it is. Be straight, I can usually help. Get caught bull shitting, I usually can’t.

I’ve been a union rep for 25 plus years.

I don’t do much of this myself. I know a guy though. Mostly I just give a little piece from my dues.
If your a seafarer on a ship and your are not being respected. We will try and help. We have a lot of affiliates.

Far as I am concerned. The working man never got a god dam thing. Wasn’t fought for by someone.

I could get by without a union. I got a licence and experience. I get well paid because I ain’t easy to replace.

I work for some hard core right wing aholes, sometimes they do surprise me and do the right thing.


That’s a “mike drop” reply if I ever read one. Kudos.