Canadian seafarers settle cabotage case

Government promises more oversight of non-Canadian seafarers as part of settlement.

The Seafarers' International Union of Canada (SIU) reached a settlement with the Canadian government in a lawsuit the union brought regarding foreign seafarers.

SIU filed 42 lawsuits in 2015 over the government's decision to issue work permits to non-Canadian crew aboard foreign-flagged ships that were sailing in Canadian waters.

Much of the case centred on 11 work permits issued by the government to foreign crew members of the 37,500-dwt New England (built 2005), which is owned by Netherlands-based Iver Ships.

SIU said the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker was engaged in cabotage shipping in Canada in July 2015. The SIU said it found instances of foreign seafarers making as little as CAD 2.41 ($1.84) per hour, well below prevailing wages for Canadian seafarers.

In July 2016, Canada admitted that it improperly issued the work permits. The SIU got a federal court to revoke the permits for the crew of the New England.

In addition, the SIU won concessions from the government with regard to more review of the issuance of work permits to foreign seafarers. That will include requiring that open positions be first advertised to Canadian seafarers, and that foreign seafarers be paid the prevailing wage.