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Transposing Decent Standards for Fishermen into EU Law Proposed

EU - On Monday 21 May 2012, the workers organisation ETF and the employers representatives of Europche and Cogeca will sign a Social Partners Agreement (SPA) to transpose into EU law ILO Convention 188 (Work in Fishing Convention, 2007) that aims to provide worldwide access to decent working and living conditions for fishermen.

The signing ceremony will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden, in the presence of Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Javier Garat, President of Europche, Giampaolo Buonfiglio, Chairman of the Copa-Cogeca Fish Working group, on behalf of Cogeca and Eduardo CHAGAS, ETF General Secretary.

The text negotiated by social partners is at the moment being assessed by the European Commissions legal services.

Towards social acquis in European fishing sector

By signing this agreement, the European social partners contribute to the systematisation of the social acquis in the fishing sector with the aim to encourage Member States to ratify the Convention and complete a European and global level playing field on the matter.

They also wish to give a strong signal to the governments and fishing sectors of ILO Member States from outside the EU, on the need to ratify the Convention as soon as possible. Moreover, once the Convention will have been transposed into EU law, infringements detected in EU ports and waters will be subject to the rule of the European Court of Justice.

The SPA is the result of negotiations that started in 2010 and were concluded in the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Sea Fisheries meeting held on 26 March 2012.

This agreement shows the ability of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue to fully participate in the enactment of legally-binding EU regulation, provided that there is a strong commitment and a joint willingness to negotiate in a constructive atmosphere for the benefit of the workers, employers and the overall sector, the social partners commented.

Tightened legal framework on working and living conditions The agreement demonstrates a clear pledge of the European Social Partners in favour of enhanced working and living conditions of fishermen on board vessels flying EU flags and vessels calling at European ports, regardless their flag and the nationality of the crew. It comprises minimum requirements for working on board, conditions of service, accommodation and food, occupational safety and health protection, medical care and social security as defined in the ILO Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No 188).

The agreement will in particular contribute to tighten the legal frame of those Member States whose legislation relating to the above-mentioned matters can be regarded as somewhat flawed.

By signing the SPA, the European social partners hope to encourage Member States to ratify the Convention, and give the EU an opportunity to have a crucial role in accelerating its entry into force, thereby ensuring that fishermen worldwide have access to decent working and living conditions. Once the legal assessment of the agreement would have neared completion, the social partners will request the Commission to propose a Council Directive through which the provisions contained in their agreement will be effectively implemented in EU law.

Lucy Towers

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