Expanding coverage

Social security coverage is ever changing and increasing to include more workers within different industries. One of the factors that has significantly contributed to this, is globalization. Persons are no longer limited to working in only one geographical location, as companies are now reaching across geographic borders establishing multi-national corporations. Social Security institutions, a major pillar of social justice, must therefore adjust and adapt to the changing global environment to ensure that coverage is extended to its wider societies.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the primary body responsible for overseeing labour standards internationally. As such, understanding the importance of providing universal coverage for all workers, the ILO is always seeking to enhance existing coverage for workers in its quest to fulfil its Decent Work Agenda. The Decent Work Agenda seeks to promote safe working conditions and adequate pay for all workers to reduce poverty.

According to the ILO, “an estimated 90% of world trade is carried on ships” making them “essential to international trade and the international economic and trade system.” Guided by a joint resolution of international ship owners, international seafarers and governments, the ILO underscored the significance of shipping to world trade when it created a new Maritime Labour Convention in 2001. Consequently, on February 23rd, 2006 at the 94th Maritime session in Geneva, Switzerland, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) was adopted.

MLC, 2006, according to the ILO, “is an up-to-date instrument consolidating and revising most ILO Conventions and Recommendations on shipping. More specifically, this Convention consolidates and updates more than 65 international maritime labour instruments adopted by the ILO over the past 80 years.

Closer to home, this Convention has implications for CARICOM, as seafarers within CARICOM amount to more than 100,000 with over 3,000 ships flying flags to which MLC, 2006 may apply. For the Convention to take effect, however, 30 member states responsible for 33% “of the world’s gross tonnage of ships” need to ratify, MLC, 2006.

Hence, Antigua & Barbuda as a member state of the ILO became the 17th ILO member state to ratify MLC, 2006. Further, records indicate that the twin-island nation has more than 1300 ships registered under its flag, representing more than 11 million gross tons; putting Antigua & Barbuda among the top 20 flag States. It bears mentioning that in ratifying MLC, 2006, last month, Antigua and Barbuda became the third Caribbean country to do so, following sister nations St. Vincent & the Grenadines and the Bahamas.

It is anticipated that the remaining 13 member states will communicate their ratification instruments to the ILO by the end of this year. This means that MLC, 2006 may become effective sometime in 2012, since the Convention will take effect 12 months after the 30 member states required have ratified the Convention.

This is excellent news for persons who work on shipping vessels that enter these flag States as it ensures that their rights will be safeguarded in keeping with the Decent Work Agenda of the ILO. Therefore, social security systems within CARICOM should work diligently to augment their operations in preparation for this new addition to their service delivery.

Information for this article was sourced from the ILO web site.