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ILO welcomes COVID-19 seafarers’ rights agreement

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The International Labour Organization has expressed support for new international measures to protect the rights of seafarers, stranded at sea because of the COVID-19 crisis .

It welcomed a joint statement  signed by more than a dozen countries that gives seafarers enhanced rights as key workers. The new measures, also supported by other UN agencies and international organizations, enable seafarers to be repatriated and move more freely during the pandemic.

“I welcome the coordinated efforts undertaken by social partners and the international community to respond to the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime sector, and call on all member States to support the implementation of this joint statement,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

The joint statement was signed during a virtual International Maritime Summit, hosted by the United Kingdom government, which discussed the global crew change crisis that has left more than 200,000 seafarers stranded at sea due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some have been confined to vessels for months because of restrictions on international travel and measures to contain the virus.

The agreement will lead to the opening of foreign borders for seafarers and to an increase in the number of commercial flights, which will speed up repatriation efforts.

Seafarers have been among the hardest hit from the fall-out of the pandemic, said Corinne Vargha, Director of the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department.

While delivering a key service to society, they face safety and health risks, and, increasingly now, physical and mental exhaustion, due to their inability to return home or to join their ships because of measures taken to stop the spread of the virus.

“The ILO therefore thanks UK Secretary of State Grant Shapps and UK Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security Kelly Tolhurst for this timely initiative and for giving the ILO an opportunity to share its perspective on the way forward.”

The ILO has urged governments to recognize seafarers as ‘key workers’ who ensure the flow of trade and the movement of vital medical supplies, safety equipment, food and other critical goods during the pandemic.

Using the guidance of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 , the ILO has been working with its social partners – governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations – as well as a number of international bodies to solve the issue. These include the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Maritime Organization (IMO), World Health Organization (WHO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), European Union and various governments.

“The ILO expresses its support for the joint statement, which provides useful, practical and timely commitments to actions that will help solve this pressing problem and expedite crew changes,” Vargha said. “We are committed to providing support to our constituents in addressing the issue of crew change, including through the implementation of this initiative.”

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Uzbekistan’s Artel joins UN’s ‘Orange The World’ campaign against gender-based violence

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Artel Electronics LLC (Artel), Central Asia’s largest home appliance and electronics manufacturer, has teamed up with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on a public information campaign against gender-based violence.

The campaign is in line with the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which utilizes the color orange to symbolize a brighter future. Artel’s green branding turned orange for several days in advertising material throughout Uzbek capital Tashkent, and public figures made statements to raise awareness.

Artel joins an international movement that kicked off on 25th November and lasts for 16 days. Since 1991, it has been used by individuals and organizations to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

This is the second year the company has ‘gone orange’. Artel Electronics HR Director, Lazizbek Mamatov, also took part in a panel discussion about Gender Equality in the Workplace hosted by the UNFPA at Westminster International University in Tashkent in line with the campaign.

Shohruh Ruzikulov, CEO of Artel, said “It is a privilege to once more work with the UN in raising awareness about the issue of Gender Based Violence. In Uzbekistan, this conversation is at a relatively young stage. We are proud to stand against domestic violence and continue Artel’s work in all areas to contribute to a better society.”

Mr. Yu Yu, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, said “We are delighted to partner with a company like Artel on such an important issue. The public reach of the private sector is vital in ensuring our message to stand against domestic violence can be heard across all segments of society. We are grateful to Artel for taking leadership on this important issue in Uzbekistan. Together, we can make the change.”

The true rate of domestic violence in Uzbekistan is not known. However, the government alongside diplomatic partners and aid organizations are prioritizing the issue. In recent years the Presidential Administration has issued decrees targeted at domestic violence prevention, the government has adopted laws guaranteeing equal rights for women, and funding has been provided for information campaigns and rehabilitation centers.

Support for this campaign is just one of Artel’s initiatives to support women’s empowerment. Internally, the company has introduced whistle-blowing mechanisms, and is implementing an internal legal clinic to improve the legal literacy of employees. Over the last year, the proportion of women in the company’s 10,000 employees has risen by 5%, to 35%. The global average for the manufacturing industry is thought to be around 30%.

In 2021, Artel became a full participant of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest business community focused on sustainable development. In doing so, the company committed to promoting ten principles covering human rights, labor rights and environmental protection.

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US Anti-Inflation Law threatens Europe

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Europe and the US are heading towards a serious trade and economic conflict, writes “Berliner Morgenpost”.

In the European Union hopes are fading that the US government will significantly amend the controversial subsidies law by providing billions in bailouts to US manufacturers. This forces the EU to protect domestic companies from threatening competitive advantages over US competition and to prevent investment from moving to America.

Fear of the “de-industrialization” of Europe is spreading. For example, buyers of a “Made in USA” electric vehicle with a battery also made in the USA receive a $7,500 subsidy. Subsidies also go to companies that make wind turbines or solar panels from American steel. Europeans are worried that not only will they have to contend with heavily subsidized US competition in future strategic sectors, but industrial cooperation with US companies could also be threatened.

The head of the trade committee in the European Parliament, Bernd Lange, told: “I assume that a few small changes to implement the IRA can still be agreed upon in the negotiations. But I do not think that anything will change significantly, because the Law has already been passed.”

The US IRA law goes into effect on January 1. By that time, the EU countries should have found a common line. France is already openly threatening a trade war and agitating for a tough counterattack: the EU should take a protectionist course and respond with the Buy European initiative. But there are also concerns in Berlin.

An EU trade expert argues that lower energy prices for industry should be considered, as they are currently ten times higher than in the US. European Commission economic policy spokesman Markus Ferber is also calling for a hard line: If the US side doesn’t give in now, the EU commission should “put all instruments of torture on the table” and consider boosting trade. Disappointment with the protectionist course of US President Joe Biden is great, Ferber says: “The American anti-inflationary law threatens Europe, and can make its economic situation much worse.”

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OPEC+ agrees to stick to its existing policy of reducing oil production

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Led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, OPEC+ agreed in early October to reduce production by 2 million barrels per day from November, – informs CNBC.

An influential alliance of oil producers on Sunday agreed to stay the course on output policy ahead of a pending ban from the European Union on Russian crude.

OPEC and non-OPEC producers, a group of  23 oil-producing nations known as OPEC+, decided to stick to its existing policy of reducing oil production by 2 million barrels per day, or about 2% of world demand, from November until the end of 2023.

The European Union is poised to ban all imports of Russian seaborne crude from Monday, while the U.S. and other members of the G-7 will impose a price cap on the oil Russia sells to countries around the world.

The Kremlin has previously warned that any attempt to impose a price cap on Russian oil will cause more harm than good.

Led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, OPEC+ agreed in early October to reduce production by 2 million barrels per day from November. It came despite calls from the U.S. for the group to pump more to lower fuel prices and help the global economy…

The looming Russian oil price “cap” has all the hallmarks of a historic debacle in the making, – notes “The Hill”.

For months, the United States and the G-7 have haggled over a complex plan to constrain the money that the Kremlin makes from some of its oil exports.

Despite Russian war against Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions on his regime, Russia is swimming in petrol dollars. By the end of the year, the Russian Economy Ministry estimates that the country will have made a record $338 billion from its energy exports.

Together with America’s existing embargo on Russian crude, when the European Union’s oil embargo comes into full force on Dec. 5, policymakers fear that the move will constrain global petroleum supplies and push prices upward.

Assuming that EU and G-7 leaders can sort out their current price puzzle and fix Russian crude below what the international market would prefer to pay, who will pick winners and losers in the subsequent scramble for cheap Kremlin oil: Putin and his energy cronies?  

The Russian oil “cap” would not be necessary if the Biden White House had been making it easier to open the spigots of American oil from the start. The president’s pledge of “no more drilling” in America continues to undercut his economic and foreign policy against Russia.

If the Russian oil price cap fails to materialize or work as officials intend, the United States and its allies should drop the scheme, – stresses “The Hill”.

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