As is the case for all seafarers’ unions, the Ukrainian Marine Transport Worker’s Trade Union (MTWTU) has had its hands full in the past months. They have been continuously representing Ukrainian seafarers in negotiations with the government, presenting demands for measures that make the lives of workers in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic easier. Among their priorities we can find the prolongation of certificates, the recognition of seafarers as key workers, and introduction of measures that would facilitate the movement of seafarers to and from ships, in line with international guidelines. Traditional union activities, such as providing information and offering advice to members, has also been vital in clarifying the complexities of travel restrictions currently in place around the world.
Additionally, they have dedicated time and resources in helping communities that have been most affected by the pandemic. Union’s Welfare fund for maritime transport called MORTRANS has been essential in their actions and offering different types of essential help, beyond the limits of their membership.
MTWTU has been providing personal protective equipment, not only valuable but in many cases, essential items. To the seafarers of the Navy Forces of Ukraine, they brought PPE, disinfectants and other hygiene supplies, strengthening the protection of their health and safety at work.
The work of the union and the fund extended beyond just maritime workers, as they made sure that PPE was delivered to the medical personnel in several medical facilities in Ukraine. They also paid a visit to maritime transport veterans, distributing PPE and food.
In times of hardship, financial support can be crucial to ensure that workers can keep their heads above the water. LBSTUS, the seafarers’ wing of the union, has been offering financial assistance for seafarers and their families for medical costs reimbursement and financial aid while they are waiting for a voyage.
The importance of union work in times of crisis has become clear – the collective character of unions allows them to pull resources and use them to lessen the negative effects of the crisis. The benefits are not only seen in situations that require collective bargaining, but also for protecting the wider community, taking care of the most vulnerable.