Spare a thought at Christmas for the poor crew of the Yangtze Fortune. Just like the cargo they carry, these men are at the mercy of this greedy (and progressively precarious) industry.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Australian Inspectorate Coordinator, Ian Bray, said that the more than 30 crew members from the Phillipines had been abandoned by their employer on the stranded Yangtze Fortune. Shipboard documentation shows that the crew received only one third of what they were owed in October, and the crew’s wages payments in both September and August were made using monies set aside for workers’ leave entitlements and the company’s provident fund.
ITF Australia’s Assistant Coordinator, Matt Purcell said that five members of the crew had already clocked up eight months aboard the vessel and were desperate to return home to their families. “These vulnerable, exploited crew face the prospect of spending months longer aboard this ship in dreadful conditions just to get what’s already owed to them, or the choice of returning home after 8 or 9 months away with nothing to show for it,” he said.
Discussions with the crew manager, ship owner and the Flag State have revealed that the company holds little hope of trading out of its financial problems. The crews are at the mercy of the market and will only be paid their full entitlement if the proceeds of sale cover the company’s debts to creditors and the total unpaid wages bill.
Ian Bray said that the Yangtze Fortune is representative of a broader problem in the livestock shipping industry where crews go unpaid and ships operate on the precipice of insolvency.“We believe there is an epidemic of borderline insolvency amongst the operators of these livestock ships as they repeatedly feature among the worst cases in our inspections around Australia and internationally,” Mr Bray said.
Yep, where animal welfare problems exist, human rights issues are usually not far away.