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Stranded sailors homeward bound after successful labour intervention

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A crew of five stuck on a ship in Port Hawkesbury since August while only partially paid are on their way home, says Karl Risser, an inspector for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

“The guys have been fully paid and repatriated by the employer. It took some negotiation to get there, but it was a successful negotiation as far as I am concerned,” Risser tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.

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Crew paid and on the way home. Photo Karl Risser / Twitter

Earlier we reported how the sailors, three Peruvians, one from Honduras and one from the Dominican Republic, arrived here to take the Canadian-flagged ship The Dutch Runner to a Dominican shipyard to be refitted.    

When the captain of the crew decided to leave, the ship’s owner went to Miami to secure a replacement captain, but only made a partial wage payment to the remaining crew before departing.

Some were as much as a month and a half behind in pay, and they wanted to go home.

For Risser this is a story about solidarity.

“This is about five guys sticking together and not accepting what was in front of them,” says Risser. “And it is also about other members of the labour movement stepping up to the plate.”

Risser singles out the Strait Area District Labour Council and members of Unifor Local 972, the people who work for Port Hawkesbury Paper.

“I took the crew up there, and when they met the crew and realized they were really cool guys they jumped right into action and came down with grocery gift cards and clothes. I am really impressed with that local,” Risser says.

The ITF, being an international federation of transport workers’ trade unions, also understands solidarity.

“We’re part of the global labour movement,” says Risser. We have 150 inspectors across the world that board vessels and make sure that minimum standards are met.These seafarers don’t know how they will be treated when they say they are going to walk off the job in a foreign port, they don’t know if they will be supported, but we are there for them.”

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