Blood on Brown Water Ch.2 b
BLOOD ON BROWN WATER Ch. 2 (continued)
For survivors, career ending medical problems may occur long before the date when Social Security or Medicare kicks in. In addition, many "limited tonnage" mariners work "Off and on" for many different employers, live pay check to pay check, and have no viable plans to fund their retirement. Few boat companies offer pensions that have a reasonable expectation of rewarding years of loyal service! In fact, with so many mergers, buyouts, and other wheeling and dealing common to the industry, coupled with the cyclical nature of the towing and oil sectors, simply holding a job requires a high degree of good luck. "At will" employment serves as a stark reminder to do as you are told and never "rock the boat". It is virtually unheard of to question policies dictated by mid-level executives who like Collins' personnel director, never had any first -hand experience working on boats. Without this experience, it is easy to see why "the company's bottom line"
took precedence over assigning a second trained and experienced mate to assist with the training duties dumped on Captain Collins Verret.
There are so many bumps and pitfalls in the job market facing our "limited tonnage" mariners that membership in an established union with training, insurance, and other plans that such membership can offer provides the the organized cure to these ills on the horizon. Above all, union membership requires mariners to face these issues squarely and work together with other company employees and not at cross purposes to solve problems that employers and regulators ignored for years and, most likely, will continue to ignore as long as they are not called on the carpet for doing so. The proposed towing vessel inspection regulations proposal published in august 2011 after seven years in the making offer very little in the way of improving working conditions.
This story reinforces and updates the letters written by dozens of our mariners relating the true stories of violations of the work-hours statutes in our association's "Yellow Book". We watched in shock and amazement as the Coast Guard at the Eighth District and at the national level ignored constant violations of the laws designed to protect our mariners. We heard the President of the Offshore Marine Services Association (OMSA), a trade association representing offshore vessel owners deny that work-hour violations even exist. We watched the National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee (NOSAC), a federal advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of Transportation , cater to industry wishes and do its best to sidetrack and dismiss our allegations of work -hour violations. This came to a boil in Aptil 2002 when a dozen of our Association directors and members traveled to Coast Guard Headquarters and dumped NOSAC's bungling mess into the Coast Guard's lap claiming, after wasting 11/2 years, that it didn't have the power to investigate our claims if it had chosen to do so. In spite of promises extracted from RADM Pluta, the Coast Guard never investigated a single one of the 57separate claims about the ongoing statutory violations. The Coast Guard obviously had no plan to challenge the owners of uninspected towing vessels to "clean up their act" and adequately crew their vessels and stop overworking their personnel.
to be continued