Some four lakh Indian seafarers of all ranks working on board Indian and foreign flagged ships moved a step closer to getting provident fund, gratuity and pension benefits after their long-pending demand was accorded “in-principle” approval.
The Board of Trustees of the Seamens’ Provident Fund Organisation (SPFO), headed by Amitabh Kumar, Director-General of Shipping, backed the demand at a meeting on Monday.
“An in-principle decision has been taken by the SPFO Board of Trustees to extend these benefits to all seafarers working on Indian and foreign flagged ships,” Amitabh Kumar, who chaired the meeting, told BusinessLine. “With the in-principle approval, the SPFO will now work out the modalities, take approval from the Board of Trustees and make a recommendation to the government. The final decision to amend the Seamens’ Provident Fund Act, 1966 to extend these benefits will rest with the government,” Kumar added.
While the provident fund for seafarers employed on Indian flag ships is covered by the statute, gratuity and pension benefits are still a bilateral arrangement between the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) and the shipowners as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement or wage agreement for seafarers.
“For nearly two decades, NUSI has been demanding the benefits of provident fund, gratuity and pension should become a statute for all ranks of seafarers- officers, petty officers, ratings, others serving on both Indian and foreign flag ships,” said Abdulgani Serang, general secretary-cum treasurer of NUSI, which represents general purpose staff employed on ships.
Serang represents NUSI on the board of trustees of SPFO.
Petition to PM
Last year, more than 25,000 seafarers petitioned the Prime Minister during the Covid-19 pandemic to secure these benefits.
“Seafarers and their families are happy at this development which will take care of them when they are not working on ships,” Serang said.
Seafarers working on Indian flag ships were getting provident fund benefits as per the Seamens’ Provident Fund Act, 1966 enacted exclusively for them.
But, Indian crew working on foreign flag ships were excluded from the ambit of the Act and denied provident fund, gratuity and pension benefits, Serang added.
Source: The Hindu Business Line
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