Feed aggregator

Nav Canada Draws Interest in U.S. Northern air-traffic system is attracting attention as model for U.S. privatization fans

Current News - Mon, 10/19/2015 - 09:07

Nav Canada Draws Interest in U.S.
Northern air-traffic system is attracting attention as model for U.S. privatization fans

Air traffic controllers at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in 2012 using management systems by Nav Canada, which some American officials see as a model for a U.S. privatization. PHOTO: PATRICK DOYLE/BLOOMBERG NEWS
Oct. 18, 2015 5:30 a.m. ET
OTTAWA—The headquarters of Canada’s air traffic control corporation is becoming a busy destination for U.S. transportation officials and airline executives looking for a model to privatize U.S. airspace management.

John Crichton, chief executive of Nav Canada, has hosted more than a dozen U.S. delegations in the past 18 months as Congress considers stripping U.S. air-traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration—much as Ottawa did 19 years ago.

Mr. Crichton’s company directs air traffic in the second-busiest swath of sky in the world by traffic volume, after the U.S. A former First Air airline executive who has led Nav Canada since its creation, Mr. Crichton is an evangelist for the Canadian model, in which an underfunded service with backward technology was removed from a national agency and turned around.

U.S. admirers—including Rep. Bill Shuster (R., Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee—advocate similarly extricating air-traffic control from the FAA and its parent, the Transportation Department. They say that would assure more reliable funding than the current mix of taxes and congressional appropriations, and could help advance NextGen, a $40 billion FAA air-traffic modernization program criticized by government watchdogs for being delayed and over budget.

Mr. Shuster has been preparing a bill that could establish a Nav Canada-like corporate structure for the U.S. He may introduce it as soon as November, people familiar with the matter said.

It is an appealing story: Nav Canada operates through user fees that Mr. Crichton says are 35% lower than the government formerly levied in ticket taxes, not adjusted for inflation. The operation is safer while handling more traffic with fewer people, he says. It can sell bonds to fund upgrades, unlike the FAA, and airlines save fuel through more efficient altitudes and routes, Nav Canada says.

“This business of ours has evolved long past the time when government should be in it,” Mr. Crichton argues. “Governments are not suited to run…dynamic, high-tech, 24-hour businesses. When they try, they mess up.”

Skeptics note that Canada has many fewer flights—roughly 3 million a year for which flight plans are filed—than the complex U.S. airspace, with about 15 million. Canada has 2,000 flight controllers operating out of 44 airport towers and seven en route centers that manage higher altitude flights. The U.S. has nearly 14,000 civilian controllers and 316 air-traffic control facilities.

‘The status quo is completely unacceptable.’
—Paul Rinaldi, controllers union president
U.S. opponents of emulating Nav Canada include corporate-jet operators, a group presenting private pilots and, alone among big commercial carriers, Delta Air LinesInc. They argue that Canada’s model wouldn’t scale sufficiently, costs of using airspace could jump, and the transition could be rocky and distracting.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat on Mr. Shuster’s committee, agrees there is room for improvement but has questioned whether privatizing air-traffic control is constitutional and whether it could solve the FAA’s bureaucracy and procurement issues. And he has said he would favor a government corporation, but the U.S. Postal Service is clearly not the model.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the union that represents U.S. controllers, has questioned whether Nav Canada is scalable, but said he is willing to consider the idea. On a panel last month, he bemoaned aging U.S. air-traffic control infrastructure and the FAA’s “broken” procurement process, saying “the status quo is completely unacceptable.” Mr. Rinaldi has visited Ottawa and says Nav Canada has developed “possibly the best equipment out there.”

The FAA said its administrator is open to discussing alternative models, but that any proposed changes would need to address its challenges and not set back progress.

About two dozen nations in the past two decades have created state-backed corporations or public-private partnerships to take air-navigation control from government bureaucracies.

The foremost concern in such changes is maintaining flight safety. Auditors from the Transportation Department’s Office of the Inspector General recently visited four overseas air-navigation providers and concluded that “separating air navigation and safety/regulatory functions has not impacted safety” in Canada, France, Germany and the U.K.

Mr. Crichton says Nav Canada has cut the rate of loss of separation—a key risk indicator that measures how often planes get too close—to under 0.8 per 100,000 flights last year from more than 1.4 when the government was still running things.

Canada’s government remains its safety regulator, but it holds just three seats on Nav Canada’s 15-member board, which also has representatives from airlines, private pilots and union groups.

Early on, Mr. Crichton says, unions were skeptical although all eight agreed to the plan. Nav Canada had to let go many of the middle-managers it inherited. To win over private pilots, Nav Canada eliminated fees based on aircraft weight and distance flown, instead charging flat annual fees of 68 Canadian dollars or C$227, depending on the size of the plane. Bernard Gervais, CEO of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, says many of his 17,000 members are happy with the service they receive.

Nav Canada has brought in-house much of the engineering and software development previously done by contractors, which has helped cut costs while freeing it to launch new products and services. Sid Koslow, chief technology officer, said Nav Canada doesn’t favor expensive, “big bang” projects like the FAA’s NextGen. But it has widely rolled out some technology the U.S. doesn’t yet have, such as data communications between pilots and controllers, or isn’t finishing installing, such as automated air-traffic management systems at all of its facilities.

It also is trying to capture revenue for its know-how. Nav Canada has sold its tower automation system to eight Australian airports. It developed a Web-based viewer that monitors airport activity and helps airports and airlines avoid congestion. And it owns 51% of a company that plans to launch satellite-based air-traffic surveillance covering the planet. Nav Canada and its partners will sell those signals to other air-navigation service providers.

Write to Susan Carey at susan.carey@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

The U.S. has nearly 14,000 civilian air traffic controllers and 316 air traffic facilities. An earlier version of this article used incorrect figures for each. (Oct. 18, 2015)

Tags: Air SystemCanadaprivatization
Categories: Labor News

What Doomed El Faro? Hurricane Joaquin was only the direct cause. The drive for profit sunk El Faro.

Current News - Mon, 10/19/2015 - 09:01

What Doomed El Faro?
Hurricane Joaquin was only the direct cause. The drive for profit sunk El Faro.

by Jack Heyman

El Faro in 2008. Peter Ferrary / Flickr

The hearts of all maritime workers stopped earlier this month when news hit that the ship El Faro, a US-flagged cargo vessel with thirty-three crew members aboard, was dead in the water north of the Bahamas with no propulsion power and directly in the path of a rapidly intensifying Hurricane Joaquin.

At 7 AM on October 1, within thirty hours of departing Jacksonville, FL, the captain made satellite contact with TOTE, the ship’s owner. While that conversation has not been made public, apparently the ship had taken on water in a hold, listing her dangerously. And without a powered propeller, El Faro was helpless before waves that reached fifty feet and a counter-clockwise spiral of winds up to 125 miles per hour. It was sucked into the eyewall of a Category Four hurricane.

Within twenty minutes of the ship captain’s final communications with the ship’s owner, the US Coast Guard reported that El Faro’s signals from her Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beam had stopped. The Coast Guard immediately contacted the shipowner and was informed of its daunting conditions. But efforts by the Coast Guard to communicate with the El Faro were futile. The ship had disappeared into the deep. A quick, dark fate awaited the crew.

Now, at the same time the crews’ family and mariners around the world are in mourning, shipowners and their friends in the media are diverting attention from the real cause of the disaster.

On Monday, the conservative National Review cried crocodile tears, opining: “Hurricane Joaquin wasn’t the sole culprit; it had an accomplice, and that accomplice is a monstrous piece of legislation known as the Jones Act.”

Passed in 1920, the Jones Act was promulgated to ensure that US coastal waterways trade remains open to American unions, i.e. ships were required to be built and manned by American citizens. A key sector of maritime interests complain that union wages make it too costly and would prefer highly exploited, nonunion crews from Third World countries and build ships elsewhere. Dumping the Jones Act would destroy maritime unions and make the maritime industry a free-trade zone on steroids.

But it wasn’t the Jones Act that sunk the El Faro and its crew. More likely is that it was TOTE’s drive for profit.

In fact, before the El Faro left from Jacksonville, it had already been forecast that then–Tropical Storm Joaquin would develop into a hurricane by the next morning — and it was heading directly into the ship’s charted navigational course.

Aware of the deadly weather prior to El Faro’s departure, TOTE Maritime could have ordered a course change or even delayed the departure. Had El Faro gone down the coast of Florida, it would have lengthened the journey. But she and her crew could have avoided the hurricane, sought a safe haven, or at least had a better chance of rescue had Hurricane Joaquin turned in that direction.

For whatever reason, on the Tacoma-to-Anchorage run, a Tacoma longshoreman tells me that TOTE ships took the Inside Passage from Vancouver Island up the coast to Alaska for safe sailing when there was a storm forecast. Why didn’t the ship sailing from Jacksonville similarly steer clear of harm’s way?

For TOTE and other shipowners, time is money. Typically that means captains are under tremendous pressure to deliver cargo as quickly as possible. But the opposite can be true as well. During the 1970s oil crisis, I was at the helm of a tanker traveling from the Gulf to New York. With lines at gas stations getting longer and longer, we were ordered to slow down — prices, and oil companies’ profits, were skyrocketing by the hour.

The drive for profit can also impel companies to forgo needed repairs. In the case of El Faro, TOTE refused to have the ship’s engines and structural welding repaired before departure — or better yet, to have her replaced with a newer ship. (One experienced longshoreman in San Juan who’d worked the El Faro frequently told me the ship was scheduled to have her engines replaced.)

Crew members and dockworkers alike complained about the lack of safety. Chris Cash, whose last voyage on El Faro ended in January, told CNN the ship was fit for the scrap yard. “It was a rust bucket,” Cash said. “They were bandaging the ship with extra steel all the time… It seemed like they didn’t want to put any money into the ship. When things would break they would just patch it up rather than really fix it.”

It also appears that the past repairs might have undermined the ship’s seaworthiness. In 1993, the owner retrofitted it in Alabama Shipyard, adding a midbody and lengthening her ninety-one feet with stacked tiers to accommodate more containers (and thus generate more money). The San Juan longshoreman said, “it would make it top heavy and less safe to maneuver under tough sea conditions.”

TOTE claims that the El Faro was regularly inspected by the American Bureau of Shipping and the US Coast Guard. They should have no problem opening their books to the public then.

There were other telltale signs of dangerous cost-cutting. The five Poles who perished on the El Faro were a “riding crew” — a group of additional workers brought on board to complete special projects due to inadequate manning for essential maintenance. Reduced to skeleton crews, many ships now rely on these ridings crews. The riding crew aboard El Faro, Cash said, was there to weld. But proper welding and repairs should have been done on the forty-year old vessel in a shipyard to maintain and repair the ship’s structural integrity and stop leaks like the one workers identified in the cook’s porthole.

But bowing to concerns about crew’s safety by delaying the sailing time or making potentially live-saving repairs diminishes profits. So, companies often don’t.

This is not a new sea story. Tales of horror — where lives were sacrificed at the altar of corporate greed — have been told by the greatest sailor writers: Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, Jack London, Mike Quin, and especially B. Traven in The Death Ship. All excoriate the base motive — profit.

Anti-Red Purges

Unfortunately, the maritime unions that should be fighting such unsafe conditions are timid and conservative.

The unions representing the El Faro crew, the Seafarers’ International Union (SIU) and the American Maritime Officers’ Union (AM0), both pariahs in the labor movement for negotiating substandard contracts, actually support nonunion riding crews. They reject the principle that crew members, whether US citizens or foreign born, should be in the union, working under a decent contract. And because military cargo is a major source of jobs, many US maritime unions support imperialist adventures abroad.

How could seafarers’ conditions be in such a state of affairs? For starters, deepsea maritime unions haven’t had a major strike in fifty years — giving employers the upper hand at every turn.

The history of red-baiting is key to understanding this lack of militancy. During the McCarthyite witchunts, thousands of radicals who had built the maritime unions in the 1930s were purged and screened off the waterfront by the US Coast Guard, many of them black longshoremen and seamen. The result was a workforce pared down to the bone and a business unionism with little appetite for struggle against employers.

The SIU has been the main culprit in collaborating with companies and undermining workers’ conditions. Labor standards have been thrown over the ship’s gunwale and down the hawsepipe as employers scale back manning and introduce labor-saving technology that simply boost profits, rather than benefiting workers through shorter days or fewer voyages with no loss in pay.

US shipowners have found other ways to weaken unions. After World War II, the Marshall Plan’s lend-lease program permitted ships to be registered in foreign countries. They used this to circumvent unions and escape taxes by registering their ships in countries like Greece, Panama, and Liberia while retaining ownership. Today many corporations, following this paradigm, claim their operations are based ”offshore,” to avoid taxes and unions.

That hole in the dyke turned into a torrent of “runaway flagships” resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs. The poor souls who man these newly-built “flag of convenience” behemoths work with no union of their choice to represent them, no way for themselves to bargain for safe working conditions, decent wages, or good benefits and certainly no right to strike.

There’s been much ado about pirates in the Indian Ocean and the ostensible hero, Captain Phillips, who endangered his crew’s lives to cut a short route through unsafe waters, saving time and fuel costs for Maersk Shipping Company. But the real pirates are the companies who put runaway flags on the ship’s stern to avoid taxes, unions, and environmental laws and abscond with billions of dollars.

The National Maritime Union (NMU), once the largest American maritime industrial union, which had one hundred thousand members at its peak, has been completely decimated by these anti-union forces. Anti-red purges thinned out its ranks. And the corrupt Curran union bureaucracy helped turn a union that integrated thirty years before the Civil Rights Act was passed into one that once-proud retired members now refer to as “No More Union.”

Unless maritime unions start challenging maritime employers in united actions to defend safe working conditions and win decent contracts, they may face the same fate as the NMU. To begin with ships’ crews should elect safety committees with the right to stop unsafe operations. That’s what rank-and-file militants called for in the NMU.

“They’re All About Money”

For mariners and grieving family members of the El Faro crew, hard questions remain unanswered by TOTE. For instance, why wasn’t the Coast Guard contacted immediately when it was clear the ship was imperiled? When the Coast Guard desperately attempted to make critical contact with her, it was too late.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the truth will ever come out about this horrible disaster — the Coast Guard, which has a notorious pro-company bias, will be a key entity in the investigation. The maritime industry’s “revolving door” — when Coast Guard officers retire, they’re often hired by the very companies they were previously regulating — has been common practice for years.

To make matters worse, there’s a heavy anti-union bias in the federal government. In 2012, during an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) protest against grain monopolies at EGT Terminal in Longview, WA, the Obama administration sent an armed Coast Guard cutter to protect a scab grain ship. This act of intimidation was consistent with the government’s historic role in siding with employers, even using armed military to break union picketing.

Mark Tabbutt, the chairman of Saltchuk transportation conglomerate, of which TOTE is a part, also has a notorious anti-union bias. Saltchuk ran its scab Foss Maritime tugs during ILWU’s Northwest grain conflict in cahoots with the Coast Guard’s union-busting efforts on the Columbia River. As one veteran mariner said, “They’re all about money.”

With El Faro, it seems that TOTE’s fixation on profit led the company to spurn the safer, longer route along the Florida coast or delay the sailing time in the face of Hurricane Joaquin. The result was catastrophic.

No ship is stronger than Mother Nature’s awesome seas, jutting rocks, and powerful winds. Sailors know that before they go up the gangway. But for maritime CEOs, all they see is dollar signs.

Tags: maritime workershealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Long Island Teamsters Local 1205 School Bus Drivers Pres says there is still time to avoid a strike by bus company workers

Current News - Sun, 10/18/2015 - 22:29

Long Island Teamsters Local 1205 School Bus Drivers Pres says there is still time to avoid a strike by bus company workers
Long Island
Union leader says there is still time to avoid a strike by bus company workers
Updated October 19, 2015 1:18 AM
By VALERIE BAUMAN valerie.bauman@newsday.com

A Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. vehicle is shown in this file photo taken on Veterans Memorial Highway in Bohemia on Sept. 10, 2015. Photo Credit: James Carbone

The union president representing workers for a Ronkonkoma-based school bus company said late last night he believes there may still be room to negotiate, just a day after a narrow majority of employees voted to strike.

Timothy Lynch, president Teamsters Local 1205, said he spoke last night with Glenn Smith, the attorney for Baumann and Sons Inc., and said the bus drivers and other workers will not strike today and discussions will continue.

Earlier, Smith warned Lynch that the union had until Wednesday to drop any plans to strike, or the company would pull its final contract offer.

Teamsters Local 1205 workers voted 302-293 Saturday to reject Baumann and Sons Inc.'s proposal and to strike. Smith had said in an email to Lynch earlier yesterday that the process was unfair, saying and that Baumann/Acme wouldn't sweeten their final offer. Lynch said in an email to Newsday that the vote was "absolutely authoritative. . . . There is no doubt that we have been given the authority to strike if and when we deem it appropriate."

Officials for Baumann and its affiliate Acme, contend that not enough workers had the chance to vote -- 595 of about 1,035 eligible union members cast anonymous paper ballots.

Citing the nine-vote margin, Baumann/Acme officials called for the union to hold a new vote this week so all eligible members at company yards may participate.

"Although the union tried to arrange a fair vote, that failed," said Smith in the email to Lynch. "If there is a strike now, the union will be moving forward with an opinion that represents the view of a very small minority of the employees."

While the final offer was set to expire or be accepted at the vote, Baumann/Acme has extended that until Wednesday if there is no strike. After that, it's off the table, Smith said.

Parents worry about potential school bus strike

A strike would affect 15,000 children in Nassau and Suffolk counties who ride the company's buses each school day.

Tweets from @Newsday/newsday-staff
"We have called the union office and the bus company to try to determine whether buses will run tomorrow to no avail," the Commack School District said in a statement issued before Lynch announced buses would run Monday. "We have no choice but to wait to see if buses arrive tomorrow and will make a robo call to parents and staff at that time unless we hear sooner. We are frustrated and very concerned."

Lacking answers, the district -- which relies on Bauman/Acme for all student transportation -- notified parents and staff at 9:30 p.m. Sunday through email, texts and a robocall, that they did not expect the buses to be running Monday. Less than an hour later, Commack officials had to go through the same means to update everyone that the strike would not start Monday after all.

Lynch refused to say whether the negotiation team would consider a revote, but defended the process. "Every single member I've spoken to . . . has stated how fair, open and democratic the meeting and vote were," he said in an email to Newsday Sunday.

However, he said in the email, leadership is "engaged in ascertaining the sentiments of the persons who were not present at the meeting."

Now that the union has formerly rejected Baumann/Acme's final offer and vowed to strike, many, like Commack school officials, expected an answer on when buses would stop rolling.

But the vote has not lent clarity to the situation. The last contract ended June 30, and the labor dispute has escalated since late August when Lynch notified the roughly 35 school districts Baumann/Acme serves that a strike was imminent just as school districts across Long Island were about to resume classes. The company also drives for many of the BOCES centers, special education centers and private and parochial schools to which school districts by law must supply student transit.

Company officials, who have refused to make company president Ronald Baumann available for an interview, said the conflict has cost them $1 million in canceled contracts.

"If there is a strike or any other activity that damages the company's business . . . the LBFO will be immediately withdrawn," Smith said in his email to Lynch.

Mediation ended this month.

The union has sought higher pay, increased contributions for health and other benefits and better working conditions. Lynch said workers want wages and benefits comparable with Baumann/Acme's main competitors on Long Island.

Officials for Baumann/Acme said the company's final offer would increase its spending on employees by 12 to 14 percent.

Tags: Long Island Teamsters Local 1205strike
Categories: Labor News

India: Victory for ‘Pombilai Orumai’

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 10/17/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Hindu
Categories: Labor News

IWW Turkey and Greece common statement about the latest Ankara massacre

IWW - Fri, 10/16/2015 - 21:57

The bombing on 10th of October 2015 was directly against the Kurdish liberation movement, the working class and all oppositions who resist against the dictatorship.

This massacre is another ring of the chain that extends from Armenian genocide to Dersim massacre, from May Day’77 to Maraş Massacre’78, from Şırnak Massacre’92 to Diyarbakır and Suruç bombings that happened within this year. All these massacres have targeted the people who ask for Freedom, Democracy and Justice on Anatolia over the last 100 years. The offender side has always been fascist party militants, religious fundamentalists and occasionally governmental commissioners themselves.

read more

Categories: Unions

SF Uber Drivers Protest And Demand More Income And Fair Compensation On Cancelled Rides

Current News - Fri, 10/16/2015 - 19:35

SF Uber Drivers Protest And Demand More Income And Fair Compensation On Cancelled Rides
Hear Why Uber Drivers Say Uber Is Unfair, and What They Want To Do About It.
Taxi Town SF
Published on Oct 16, 2015
October 16, 2015
Interview by John Han with Uber driver Abe Hussein at a protest held in San Francisco, outside of Uber's headquarters at 1455 Market St. Hussein is a former Uber driver who wants to hold ongoing actions for better driver working conditions.

Tags: UberDrivers
Categories: Labor News

Regional Director's Report October 2015

IBU - Fri, 10/16/2015 - 18:03
Categories: Unions

UK: TUC supports call for eradication of all asbestos in Britain

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 10/15/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TUC
Categories: Labor News

Global: If the UK passes this draconian Trade Union Bill, your country might be next

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

Yemen: Plight of missing teacher unknown as efforts to secure his release continue

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Education International
Categories: Labor News

Sinking of Cargo Ship Raises Questions About Age of U.S. Fleet

Current News - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 16:38

Sinking of Cargo Ship Raises Questions About Age of U.S. Fleet

The Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, one of a handful of shipyards in the United States capable of building commercial-class ships. CreditMike Mergen/Bloomberg

The 40-year-old cargo ship El Faro, which disappeared in the Caribbeanthis month with 33 people on board, was about four times older than the global average.

Yet the vessel, built in 1975, was not at the end of its service life. After the ship completed its runs to Puerto Rico this year, its owner planned to send El Faro to Alaska for service between Anchorage and Tacoma, Wash.

El Faro’s sinking highlights a vulnerability in the United States merchant fleet: its age. Commercial ships around the world are an average of 11 years old, but ships registered in the United States average 31 years, according to the consulting group IHS Maritime.

Continue reading the main story

Proponents argue that the provisions are critical to the nation’s security because they maintain a domestic fleet for national emergencies and, through the Military Sealift Command, provide for an auxiliary navy to deploy troops and equipment. By guaranteeing that ships be made in the United States, the Jones Act also keeps a domestic shipbuilding industry and capabilities.

There are, however, only a handful of shipyards left in the United States capable of building commercial-class ships; two of the largest are in Philadelphia and San Diego. Because of high labor costs, it is about three times as expensive to build a ship in the United States as in China, said Krispen Atkinson, a principal analyst at IHS Maritime in London.

“That’s why this fleet is not being renewed,” he said.

As a result, the global shipbuilding business has shifted in the last three decades to China, South Korea and Japan, while specialty vessels, like cruise ships or offshore petroleum platforms, are manufactured in Germany, Finland or Norway. Few large commercial ships are built in the United States.

“One of the surprises in the case of the El Faro is that a 40-year-old ship is still navigating,” said Okan Duru, an assistant professor of maritime finances and logistics at the Department of Maritime Administration of Texas A&M University, Galveston. “But if a ship is built in the United States, the expectation is that it is put in service for a very long time.”

The domestic oceangoing merchant marine fleet declined 82 percent from 1951 to 2011. At its peak, the ocean fleet comprised nearly 1,300 vessels. Today, it has shrunk to about 166 ships and accounts for about 1 percent of the global fleet.

Of those, only about half are eligible under the Jones Act to serve domestic ports, while the rest sail overseas. More than 60 vessels are more than 20 years old, which is the normal life span of a ship.

El Faro was sailing between Jacksonville, Fla., and Puerto Rico with the 33 people and cargo that included cars and retail goods when it came into the path of Hurricane Joaquin. On the way, El Faro crossed paths with its sister ship, El Yunque, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the disappearance.

El Faro’s crew reported that the ship had lost power and was taking on water before all communications were lost. The Coast Guard determined that the ship had sunk in 15,000 feet of water.

To gain insight into the operating conditions and layout of El Faro, safety board inspectors have visited El Yunque, which was built a year after El Faro. Both are owned by Sea Star Line, a subsidiary of Tote Inc., which is based in New Jersey.

Asked at a news conference last week whether El Faro was too old to be sailing, company executives emphasized that the vessel had been inspected for safety by the Coast Guard, and that its hull and machinery were credentialed by the American Bureau of Shipping.

“The engineering standards we have on board our vessels is very high,” said Philip H. Greene Jr., the president of Tote Services Inc., the company that provided the ship’s crew and management.

Coast Guard records show the ship had a handful of mechanical problems dating back several years, including a failed boiler and a fuel leak. Several former seamen who sailed on El Faro in the past said they had seen recurring problems, including engine failure, water seeping into rooms during heavy rain and problems lowering the lifeboats.

The episode has renewed questions about whether to amend the Jones Act. The oil industry, for example, has long complained about the restrictions, which it says limit the availability of tanker transportation for its refineries and drive up its costs.

Jones Act restrictions also apply to cargo ships traveling between the mainland United States and Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Islanders complain about the restrictions, which they say increase living costs.

In February 2014, officials in New Jersey sought a waiver to the Jones Act to get badly needed road salt that was stranded in Maine. Such waivers to use noncompliant ships have been granted in cases of national emergencies, as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, to move fuel shipments faster.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institution, said in a report last year that the Jones Act should be scrapped because it kept shipping costs artificially high, increased energy costs and harmed innovation in the domestic shipping industry without meeting the needs of the military.

This year, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, made the latest effort to repeal the law, which he called antiquated. But his push was defeated, a demonstration that the policy has strong support among a broad coalition of marine professionals, unions, shipyards and military officials, who favor it for ensuring that the nation maintains a domestic commercial industry.

Still, even some defenders of the policy said the age of the fleet was a matter of concern.

“It is time we make it a safer environment, because every day, these ships are getting older,” said Capt. William H. Doherty, a retired master and director of maritime relations at the Nexus Consulting Group in Alexandria, Va. “This one sunk, and the rest of them aren’t getting any younger.”

United States-flagged ships are not just older; they are also more expensive. The total average cost of operating one is nearly three times the cost for an equivalent foreign ship, according to the federal Maritime Administration.

For instance, the operating cost of a container ship based in the United States with an American crew is $21,194 a day, compared with $9,583 a day for a foreign vessel.

Over recent decades, because of advances in ship design, communications and safety equipment, modern shipping has become a lot safer. Older ships are not necessarily more dangerous when they are properly maintained.

But academic studies have found a direct link between ship age and accident rates.

A 2012 report by researchers at Southampton Solent University in Britain concluded, “The evidence confirms that the majority of accidents can be linked with older vessels, a predominance of general cargo carrier accidents and a suite of worst-performing flags.”

The researchers also found that vessel safety standards had improved and that shipping accidents had declined relative to the growth in the world fleet.

Making comparisons by age between international and domestic fleets is a tricky exercise, said Michael S. Bruno, the dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science and a professor of ocean engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

“There has been a large turnover of commercial vessels, in particular container ships, over the last decade, because of the movement toward very large ships,” he said. “So while the average age among certain types of vessels might be going down in some circles, that does not necessarily mean that a particular vessel, or that U.S. flagships, are in some sense too old to operate safely.”

Mr. Bruno pointed out that ships registered in the United States operated under strict regulations that were enforced by the Coast Guard and third-party companies, known as classification societies, that verified that each vessel complied with the rules.

While there are no age limits for sailing, these classification societies require more rigorous inspections as ships become older. The American Bureau of Shipping, which inspected El Faro, declined to comment because it is a party to the safety board’s investigation.

Captain Doherty said, however: “What they have done over the past 20 years is lowering the bar. Their definition of seaworthy gets lower and lower because the ships are getting older and older.”

Frances Robles contributed reporting.

Tags: health and safety ships
Categories: Labor News

Register for Strategic Corporate Research 101 Webinar

IWW - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 15:17

By Yvonne Yen Liu - IWW, October 12, 2015

Date: Sunday, October 18th 2015
Time: 5:00-6:00 pm ET/4:00-5:00 pm CT/2:00-3:00 pm PT
Description: We will focus on outlining the three main areas of strategic corporate research: Operational, Command & Control, and Outside Stakeholders, and give participants basic information and tools to conduct their own research. This workshop will discuss how to track down information on a company's business model, growth strategy and owners as well as the various components of a strong, comprehensive, research-backed corporate campaign in support of shop-floor organizing. We will review the initial material quickly, provide links to resources for participants to review on their own and have time for discussion.

RSVP: http://www.iww.org/committees/SRC

read more

Categories: Unions


IWW - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 15:11

By Some Angry Workers - Angry Workers of the World, October 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. We have republished this open letter to our union in order to stimulate discussion:

Autumnal greetings comrades!

We have known some of you for a while, and met some more of you recently on our film screening ‘tour’ earlier this year. It was great to make some new friends and have some good discussions about what we’re all up to. We thought we’d get in touch with you about some proposals for joint work in the coming year, let us know if you’re interested!

1. We want to start an Amazon workers newsletter

We have lots of translated material of interviews with Amazon workers in Germany, Poland and India, as well as knowing comrades who work in, and have direct contact with, Amazon workers. We could turn this into an (irregular) 2-sided newsletter for Amazon workers in the UK. Polish comrades have set up a small section of the Workers Initiative (IP) syndicalist union inside the warehouse in Poznan, which is now the site of Europe’s biggest Amazon warehouse. It was built to undermine workers at struggling Amazon warehouses across Germany. Workers from Germany and Poland recently had a meeting together to discuss coordinating their efforts:


And at the the recent meeting about transnational strikes in Poznan earlier this month we heard about the idea of Amazon workers organising a bus caravan through Europe.

As of yet, we have no contact with Amazon workers/militants in England who could participate in international meetings or coordinations like these ones. We think this newsletter would be a good step towards this. It would also let workers know what is happening at other Amazon warehouses, which may encourage their own activity e.g. other workers’ experiences of union struggles such as those being led by the ver.di union in Germany; how workers there don’t have a ‘countdown’ on their scanner/watch, which has relieved some of their work pressure; or the overtime slow-down strike in Poznan in support of the workers on strike in Germany (they had been ordered by management to work overtime as they supply for the German market, so essentially the workers in Poland were refusing to be scabs).

Would any of you be interested in working on this together? Essentially this would mean co-writing and/or distributing the paper outside Amazon warehouses when shifts start and/or finish. Because we are based in London, we are not immediately near any Amazon warehouses but could also come from time to time to help out. You could build on these links in whatever ways you had the capacity for within your local. At the moment it just seems a shame that we have all these materials and contacts that would make a great newsletter and they’re not being put to use!

We made a list of Amazon warehouse locations below [1] so if your local has the time, capacity, energy and will to focus on these workers, or at least start something and then see how things go, get in touch and we can discuss in more detail.

If you’re worried that your local not having the longer-term resources to support workers if the newsletter does prove to be a catalyst for workers wanting to organise, then let’s discuss how this could be overcome.

read more

Categories: Unions

Liverpool IWW Spread Message that Claimant Advocacy is Not a Crime!

IWW - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 14:56

By Admin - Liverpool IWW, October 12, 2015

This afternoon, members and supporters of Liverpool IWW held an information picket outside the town centre job centre, on Williamson Square. We are one of several IWW groups and other activist organisations holding demonstrations at job centres this week. Scottish Unemployed Workers Network called for solidarity with claimant advocate Tony Cox, who faces court in Forfar tomorrow on the ludicrous charges of threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest. He was arrested at an Arbroath job centre last January, whilst representing a highly vulnerable unemployed woman.

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network assert that:

“We believe that this case highlights the climate of fear that is evident within many job centres, but that it is not only benefit claimants that are treated with contempt. Welfare advisors are also being subjected to bullying and intimidation, as in the recent case of Mike Vallance at High Riggs Job Centre, when they attempt to represent, often highly vulnerable, benefit claimants. The SUWN will resist any and all attempts to curb the rights of welfare and citizen advocates to represent the unemployed, and we ask you to join us in our fight to ensure that ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME.”

In Liverpool today, we distributed info provided by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, backing up with legal statements the fact that ‘advocacy is not a crime’. Claimants visiting the job centre took our advice enthusiastically, and were generally pleased that someone was taking a stand against the Department for Work and Pensions, and the bullying regime inside job centres. Our social networking presence also got a number of likes and follows during the picket.

In fact, the response was so positive that we will soon begin a regular series of job centre info distribution pickets, offering advice, encouragement and solidarity to claimants – who represent some of the most vulnerable elements of the working class.

read more

Categories: Unions

Twin Cities IWW wins unpaid wages from local daycare

IWW - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 14:48

By Admin - Twin Cities IWW, October 10, 2015

This summer, IWW member Anja was fired from her job at Crocus Hill Academy, a daycare. She was told that it was for talking to current and former coworkers about issues with their boss, Imran Khan. Two weeks later, Anja had yet to receive her final paycheck, her personal belongings, or a copy of her personnel file, which she had requested. Three union members from the Twin Cities IWW branch accompanied Anja to the daycare to deliver a demands letter. Mr. Khan reacted aggressively, shouting at and threatening the union delegation, accusing Anja of mistreating children, and calling St. Paul Police. He refused to accept the letter, and police asked IWW members to vacate the property.

The following day, a larger group of IWW members leafleted the daycare. As Mr. Khan yelled from the door, union members talked to parents about Anja’s firing and other grievances. Upon Mr. Khan’s continued refusal to receive the letter, branch members conducted a call-in and social media campaign against Crocus Hill Academy. Within a few days, Anja received a call from the school’s new director, begging her to give him a copy of the demands which Mr. Khan refused to accept. She has since received her final paycheck and an additional check for $120 to compensate for her personal belongings and personnel file, both of which Mr. Khan “misplaced.”

Manipulative, lying bosses like Mr. Khan are a danger to all working people, especially when they punish workers for protected activity like talking about work conditions and steal wages. But when we stand alone, or when we look to the government for help, we give up our power to fight. When we come together with other working people, we can get what we deserve. Direct action works and solidarity wins. Get in touch with the Twin Cities IWW if you have problems at work.

Email: twincities@iww.org

read more

Categories: Unions

Turkey: Cops use tear gas against Istanbul union rally over Ankara massacre

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 10/13/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Hurriyet Daily News
Categories: Labor News

Tunisia: How social dialogue led to a Nobel Prize for Tunisia

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 10/13/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

PSR Fleet Memo for October 10 2015

IBU - Tue, 10/13/2015 - 14:03
Categories: Unions

OSHA Dismisses Majority of Whistleblower Cases Agency Investigates and fires Federal OSHA Lawyer Darrell Whitman who did investigations

Current News - Tue, 10/13/2015 - 11:19

OSHA Dismisses Majority of Whistleblower Cases Agency Investigates and fires Federal OSHA Lawyer Darrell Whitman who did investigations
NBC Bay Area finds government awards merit to less than 2 percent of whistleblower complainants
By Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla
From airlines to pipelines, they’re workers on the front lines who speak up when systems break down. The government built a safety net for employees who get fired for raising red flags about safety issues or illegal activities. It's called the Whistleblower Protection Program and it's run by OSHA. But agency data shows the government is leaving whistleblowers high and dry. Investigative Reporter Vicky Nguyen reports in a story that aired on October 12, 2015. (Published Monday, Oct. 12, 2015)
A federal agency responsible for investigating claims of whistleblower retaliation dismisses the vast majority of cases it examines and fails to meet completion deadlines, an NBC Bay Area analysis of government data revealed.
The Whistleblower Protection Program, administered by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), is supposed to protect American workers from retaliation when they raise red flags about public health and safety or report illegal activity. The program defends workers in 22 different sectors including the airline, pipeline and environmental industries. But critics say the system has failed to stand up for our nation’s workers.
“Whistleblowers don’t stand a fighting chance when they seek justice at this agency,” said Tom Devine, a whistleblower advocate.
• INVESTIGATIVEWhole Foods to Stop Selling Rabbit Meat
As the legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington D.C., Devine has helped thousands of whistleblowers defend themselves against retaliation. He has testified before Congress and helped pass national whistleblower laws. As part of his work, Devine monitors whistleblower programs throughout the federal government.
“OSHA’s track record is unsurpassed as the lowest common denominator for whistleblower protection in the executive branch,” Devine said. “It’s an agency we warn whistleblowers about.”
Darrell Whitman, a whistleblower investigator in OSHA’s Region 9 office, spoke to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit earlier this year to expose what he calls systematic dysfunction within the agency. Whitman said his managers pressured investigators to close cases without proper review and dismissed complaints even when Whitman found they had merit.
• More From NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit
Whitman pointed to the numbers in Region 9, which oversees California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. The agency awarded merit to just 2.8 percent of all whistleblower complaints from 2009 to 2014. Whitman called that percentage unacceptable.
Now, national numbers reveal equally dismal results for OSHA’s entire whistleblower program.
An analysis of complaint outcomes in all ten OSHA regions from 2004 to 2014 found:
• OSHA awarded merit to 1.8 percent of cases.
• The agency did not issue a single finding of merit in seven of the 22 industries protected by whistleblower laws. They include laws related to health insurance, asbestos in schools, consumer products, food distribution, cargo containers, maritime safety and public transit.
• Nearly 22 percent of cases resulted in settlements. OSHA considers those outcomes favorable to complainants.
• OSHA dismissed 59 percent of whistleblower cases, which account for the majority of cases OSHA investigated.
Devine called the dismissal rate “obscene.”
• INVESTIGATIVEWhy It's Legal For People to Solicit You When You're Shopping
“The national track record ranges from 1.5 to 3 percent merit findings,” Devine said. “These are people who charge that their rights have been violated and 97 to 99 percent of the time the government rules, officially rules, that they had it coming.”
The data also reveals that complainants have to wait a long time for answers about their whistleblower cases.
Regulations state that OSHA must complete whistleblower investigations in 90 days or less. The agency reports 71 percent of all cases failed to meet that deadline. The completion time has increased from 98 days in 2004 to 378 days in 2014.
But Devine says there are reasons for the delays. In many instances investigators lack the training necessary to investigate complex whistleblower laws. Devine says OSHA allows companies to bend rules by waiting up to a year to respond to an employee’s whistleblower complaint. He says managers also add time by reinvestigating certain cases.
The delays have real consequences for whistleblowers.
“They are going bankrupt, their families are disintegrating, they are being blacklisted, usually because they have had no vindication,” Devine said. “They may be going through horrible emotional personal crises, have nervous breakdowns, depression, they lose their homes, their lives are a living hell—while OSHA fiddles.”
The Investigative Unit spoke with more than a dozen whistleblowers across the nation who described the emotional toll the long wait times had taken on their lives. Aaron Stookey, a Region 9 complainant, says OSHA dragged out his case for more than four years.
“If I could really describe how I feel on the inside, take a ping pong ball, put it inside a blender and turn it on,” Stookey said. “I’m that ball. That’s how I feel on the inside.”
Stookey worked as a flight service specialist for a major aerospace company. He was fired after raising red flags about the aviation safety. OSHA ultimately dismissed Stookey’s complaint.
“I have had to eek my way through the past few years,” Stookey said. “It’s impacted my credit, finances, quality of life I’m accustomed to and have worked so hard to achieve.”
Criticism of the Whistleblower Protection Program should come as no surprise to OSHA. A series of government reports dating back 25 years reveals major problems with the program.
In 1988 the Government Accountability Office found “complaints were not investigated within statutory timeframes.” The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General made the same observation more than a decade later in 2001.
Then, in 2010 the Office of Inspector General criticized OSHA for “not always ensuring that complainants received appropriate investigations.”
In 2006, OSHA leaders tapped Nilgun Tolek to head the Whistleblower Protection Program. She said OSHA leaders asked her to reform the flailing agency but pushed back on her proposals.
“I think it was lip service and that no one really had any great intention to do anything differently that they already did it,” she said. “It was unbelievably frustrating. I mean it drove me out.”
Tolek left the agency in 2011 with the conclusion that Congress should move the Whistleblower Protection Program out of OSHA. Critics, including Devine, agree.
The agency declined interview requests but provided an April memo written by Dr. David Michaels, the head of OSHA.
“Our whistleblower program is clearly getting stronger,” Michaels wrote. “We are focused on improving both the efficiency and quality of our investigations.”
Michaels noted that the program reached a record number of merit findings in 2013—75 out of what numbers show to be 3,757 complaints completed that year. He wrote that monetary awards to whistleblowers more than doubled in a span of four years from $15.2 million in 2011 to $35.8 million 2014.
He also pointed out that OSHA added more staff to the Whistleblower Program, elevated the program from an office within the agency’s enforcement directorate to its own directorate, and created a national whistleblower advisory committee. Michaels also noted that OSHA has expanded basic training courses for investigators.
“Dr. David Michaels is giving some very inspiring speeches about his desire for this to become an effective workers rights organization. So far the rhetoric is not clothed in reality,” Devine said. “It’s important to maintain the appearance that we are all behind whistleblowers, even if we are stabbing them in the back from behind.”
Have a tip for the Investigative Unit? Email theunit@nbcbayarea.com or call 888-996-TIPS.

OSHA Dismisses Majority of Whistleblower Cases
From airlines to pipelines, they’re workers on the front lines who speak up when systems break down. The government built a safety net for employees who get fired for raising red flags about safety issues...

Tags: OHSACollusion with bosseswhistleblowers
Categories: Labor News


Subscribe to Transport Workers Solidarity Committee aggregator