Information about Covid-19 Corona and the work situation based on the most frequently asked questions
21 april 2020
News/Update Corona-virus (COVID-19)
Dear Nautilus International members on board or at home.
We live in an uncertain time when employees and employers are confronted with the consequences of the Coronavirus. Restricting freedom of movement, on board or at home, is a rigorous measure.
The Nautical sector belongs to the vital sector. Despite the outbreak of Covid-19, work in Merchant navy, Inland Shipping, Tug boat industry, Offshore, Dredging Industry and on bridges and locks continues unabated.
We assist our members every day. Below the most frequently asked questions and answers. If your question is not listed, please contact Nautilus International. email@example.com or +31 (0) 104771188.
Covid-19 Coronavirus Questions and Answers Overview
- My employer indicates that I cannot disembark and go home. Do I have to accept this?
Because many borders are currently closed and there are hardly any flights available, crew exchanges are simply impossible. This is especially true if you are (far) abroad. Then there is not much you can and accept this for the time being. However, you must be relieved and repatriated as soon as reasonably possible. It is understandable that certain shipowners have suspended all crew exchanges as an emergency measure. Also to prevent contamination. However, this emergency measure must be reasonable and proportional. This can also change over time if the situation changes. Please contact us for advice if you are unsure whether this is correct in your case.
- If there is temporarily no work available or a crew change cannot take place due to the situation surrounding the coronavirus, can the employer allow me to take longer leave? And if so, does the employer have to pay me the structural overtime allowance?
The main rule is that an employee's leave of absence may not be used without the employee's permission to absorb a situation that is reasonably for the account of the employer. If there is temporarily less work available or there is no crew change, this is in principle a risk at the expense of the employer. To compensate for this, extra leave days can only be used if you as an employee actually agree voluntarily.
It may be that specific provisions are included in the collective bargain agreement (CBA) or individual employment contract. It is also important that there should be no negative leave balance unless something has been agreed in the CBA or employment contract.
If you as an employee do not agree to the use of your leave days, the employer will have to pay at least the salary that you would have during your leave, unless otherwise stipulated in the CBA or the employment contract.
- Can the employer allow me to stay on board longer because of the situation with the coronavirus?
Under normal circumstances, the sailing/leave schedules may not simply be changed without your permission.
If it is about a different sailing/leave schedule due to the special circumstances (for example because borders are closed, no flights are available or to reduce the chance of contamination), this may be required of you as an employee. So our advice is to try, to be flexible. The incidental deviation must be reasonable and proportional. Consult with your employer.
When it comes to a structural adjustment of the sailing / leave schedule for a longer period, take a good look at what this means for you and your colleagues. If it is a deviation from the CBA, give us a call! If you do not have a CBA and you have a Works Council, please consult the Works Council. The Works Council will have to agree to the (temporary) introduction of a different sailing / leave schedule.
We would also like to refer to the emergency plan of the Dutch Ministry of Ilent.
- Can I refuse to go to a ship in a Covid-19 area?
First of all; according to the 2006 MLC Maritime Convention, shipowners are required to protect the health and safety of seafarers.
Refusal to enter a ship can normally be considered as refusal to work. Be careful with that now too. However, there are no provision in the CBA or employment law for this 'force majeure' situation in general. Since air traffic has been reduced by 90%. It is therefore virtually impossible to travel to most countries. Furthermore, if the government does give a negative travel advice for certain countries, an employer cannot require you to travel to such a country. Always consult with your employer, reasonableness and good employer (and good employee) practices should be applicable here.
If you have any questions or doubts, please contact Nautilus. We are happy to help you make your assessment.
- Can the employer order me other activities?
The main thing is that the employer has a general instruction right. Occasionally, the employer can always ask you to perform slightly different activities than usual.
Moreover, there is a very special situation. Under these circumstances, an employer can propose suitable work, structurally or for a longer period. You may reasonably have to accept this proposal, if this is necessary for serious reasons or if there is a change in circumstances. It is therefore important that the adjustment is necessary in view of the crisis situation around Corona and that no lighter measures are possible. If necessary, ask us for advice.
We wishing you all the best in this difficult time
- Can the employer place me on board during this corona period?
Do I have to board? And what about my safety? Especially when there is work in small spaces.
There is no government prohibition that work on board is not allowed. In fact, shipping and the supply of products and goods is part of the so-called 'vital process' of food supply. In these times it is important that shipping is not stopped.
Some employers in inland shipping- and towage industry choose to leave employees who fall into a risk group (and may therefore be vulnerable to the corona virus) at home.
In the towage industry, in for example the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, crews are relieved with the necessary safety and precautionary measures. This also applies to inland shipping industry.
However, the employer must do everything on board to minimize the risk of corona contamination. So keep as much distance, if possible, between colleagues. The employer must make separate sleeping places / huts available as much as possible. The messroom will not be allowed to eat all together or with the correct distance. The correct hygiene measures must be entrusted to the employees (including washing hands). The employer must also ensure that there are sufficient handles, gloves, tissue paper and face masks available on board. If a seafarer has any symptoms, the seafarer will have to be isolated and the Radio Medical Service will have to be contacted. The captain will have to follow the protocol of the Radio Medical Service.
Your employer is obliged to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. To do this, he must identify the risks, assess them and take appropriate measures, such as providing information and providing sufficient soap and tissues in toilets.
You can discuss with your employer how he can further reduce the risks of contamination. For example, by paying extra attention to cleaning the environment on board, with which contamination can be transferred more easily. Think of door handles, keyboards or telephones. The employer must also ensure clear communication about hygiene measures and instructions about washing hands.
For example, many different measures are conceivable. Do you have good ideas? Then present it to your employer or the captain. We would also like to hear if you have other solutions. Talk to each other about compliance with the measures.
- Can I work on board if I have a cold or have any other corona symptoms?
The current Dutch Health organization RIVM guidelines clearly indicate that you should stay at home if you have a cold or any other symptoms of corona. This is due to the safety of colleagues in the workplace. Then discuss this with your employer.
We would also like to refer to the information from the Dutch Coast Guard:
- It would be nice to do a corona test before boarding to make sure we don't contaminate a "clean" ship/work environment. Are there plans for this?
No, there are no general plans for this. But if there is a dry cough and fever, do not just go on board, first contact your employer.
- Which people are tested?
Patients from vulnerable groups can be tested if this is important for their treatment or care. In addition, patients with symptoms of a coronavirus infection who are so ill that they need to be hospitalized are tested. Care workers such as general practitioners, nursing home workers or home care workers are also tested if they have complaints that indicate a coronavirus infection and are indispensable in care.
- Does the employer have to continue to pay my sick wages if I am incapacitated for work?
Yes, the corona virus does not change this employer's obligation to continue to pay wages in the event of illness.
- I had requested a holiday for the following weeks, but I would like to withdraw this request now that my trip has been canceled is that possible?
Once a holiday application was approved, the employee cannot simply withdraw it unilaterally. This must be done in consultation with the employer. If the employer has a compelling business interest, he may refuse the revocation (for example, if the employer has already provided temporary replacement). Major importance may also include the corona situation, for example when this temporarily reduces the workload. Here too, good employer practices and good employee practices are important. So your interest must also be taken into account.
The above is general advice. Also consult your CBA or ask us for advice. .
These are difficult times for you as an employee as well as for the employer. Try to find a solution in consultation with each other as much as possible!
If you are left with questions and you cannot find a solution with your employer, please contact Nautilus International firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +31 (0) 104771188.
We wish you and your family Strength in this difficult time.