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I. The Conference as a Whole


The Twenty-eighth (Maritime) Session of the International Labor Conference met in Seattle from June 6 to June 29, 1946. Two hundred ninety-five delegates and advisers, from 32 countries representing governments, employers, and workers, attended the Conference. Twenty-three countries were represented by complete delegations.

The desirability of a maritime session of the International Labor Conference was generally accepted while the war was still in progress. In July 1944 a request for consultation of governments, employers, and workers in the international maritime industry was made in the Seafarers' Charter adopted by the seamen of 12 maritime countries, by representatives of the International Transport Workers' Federation (Seamen's Section), and by the International Mercantile Marine Officers' Association. Subsequently, in January 1945, the Joint Maritime Commission of the International Labor Organization, composed of representatives of shipowners and seafarers, requested the Governing Body of the International Labor Office to call a special maritime session of the International Labor Conference as soon as practicable. In the same month, the Governing Body of the International Labor Office formulated plans for a general maritime session, adopted the agenda for the Conference, and called technical conferences to prepare preliminary material.


The Conference, the sixth session of the International Labor Organization devoted exclusively to the welfare of seafarers, was the first maritime session to be held since 1936. It undertook the task of formulating minimum international standards in every important aspect of the employment of seamen in the international maritime industry, including wages and hours of work, manning, conditions of food and accommodation on board ship, social security, holidays with pay, and certification of physical fitness and ability. The Conference adopted nine conventions, four recommendations, and nine resolutions,


a number unprecedented in the history of the International Labor Organization.

The Conference was important not only because of the scope and number of its conventions but also because of the significance of the proposals adopted. An international minimum wage was incorporated for the first time in an international convention in the wages, hours, and manning convention. An eight-hour day for distant-trade ships was adopted in the same convention. Equally significant is the provision in four conventions permitting the implementation of conventions by collective-bargaining agreements as well as by national laws or regulations—a far-sighted attempt to facilitate ratification and obtain wider application of conventions.


The Conference elected the following officers:
President: Henry M. Jackson, United States government delegate.
Vice presidents: George R. Strauss, M.P., United Kingdom gov-

ernment delegate; Emile Deckers, Belgian employers' delegate;

Eugene Ehlers, French workers' delegate. Seven committees to study items on the agenda and a Credentials Committee, a Drafting Committee, and a Selection Committee were organized. The assignment of United States government delegates and advisers on the committees is set forth in appendix B.

The work of the Conference was conducted primarily in the working committees, which used as a basis for discussion the texts prepared at Copenhagen by the preparatory technical conference, as edited by the International Labor Office, and the amendments proposed by the members of the committees.


The agenda for the Conference included the following items:
1. Director's Report;
2. Social security for seafarers;
3. Crew accommodations on board ship;

The conventions, recommendations, and resolutions adopted by the International Labor Conference at its Twenty-eighth Session have been published by the International Labor Office in the Official Bulletin, Sept. 20, 1946, vol. XXIX, no. 3. This publication may be obtained from the Washington branch of the International Labor Office, 734 Jackson Place NW., Washington, D. C.

4. Food and catering on board ship;
5. Entry, training and promotion of seafarers;
6. Holidays with pay for seafarers;
7. Continuous employment for seafarers;
8. Recognition of seafarers' organizations;
9. Wages; hours of work on board ship; manning.

In preparation for the Conference a tripartite preparatory technical conference, proposed by the Joint Maritime Commission, met in Copenhagen in November 1945 to undertake first discussions of the subjects on the agenda. The preparatory conference adopted various texts and reports which, as edited and revised by the International Labor Office, became the basis for the discussions at Seattle.


The International Labor Organization is an organization of nations established in 1919 to promote social justice as a basis for international peace. The President of the United States accepted membership in the organization for this country pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress of June 19, 1934. The United States was an active participant in the Maritime Session of 1936, and the five conventions which have been ratified by the United States are maritime conventions adopted at that session.

International Labor Conferences, including special sessions such as the Twenty-eighth Session, are meetings of the member nations at which each member is represented by two government delegates, one workers' delegate, and one employers' delegate for the purpose of adopting world-wide labor standards. These are incorporated in recommendations, which are model legislation to be submitted to the member states for guidance, or in conventions, which each member agrees to submit to the proper authority and which, if ratified by the member, assume the binding force of any international treaty.

Representing the United States were Secretary of Labor L. B. Schwellenbach and Congressman Henry M. Jackson, of Washington, government delegates; Harry Lundeberg, president of the Seafarers International Union of North America (AFL), workers' delegate; Maitland Pennington, vice president of the National Federation of American Shipping, employers delegate.

The Secretary appointed as his alternates Commodore H. C. Shepheard, of the United States Coast Guard, and Erich Neilsen, of the United States Maritime Commission. Congressman Jackson, following his election as president of the Conference, appointed Congressman


Richard J. Welch, of California, as alternate. Morris Weisberger of the Seafarers' Union of the Pacific was designated as alternate for Harry Lundeberg.

The delegates were accompanied by a number of advisers. The complete delegation is set forth in appendix A.


Among the most important objectives sought by the United States were the following: the improvement and maintenance of adequate working conditions for seafarers, the elimination and/or narrowing of differences in working conditions and wages as a competitive factor in international shipping, the adoption of ratifiable conventions containing the highest possible standards, the recognition of American usage and practice, and more explicit definition of obligations under the conventions.


The United States government delegation took an active part in the deliberations of the Conference. In the various committees, it sought to clarify the issues under discussion and spell out the obligations under the conventions so that there would be no question about the commitments of countries which ratified them.

Congressman Jackson, Congressman Welch, Commissioner John Carmody of the Maritime Commission, who attended the Conference as an observer, and the entire government delegation were consistently intelligent, untiring, and effective at the Conference. The employers' and workers' delegates and advisers also performed their duties with singular efficiency. In my opinion the splendid work of the United States delegation contributed immeasurably to the success of the Conference.

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The work of this committee was the most controversial of the entire Conference. It was the largest working committee of the Conference and was participated in by the senior members of each of the delegations. It was this committee which handled the two most important issues of the Conference, namely, the minimum wage for able-bodied seamen and the modification of past International Labor Organization procedure on implementing ratified conventions.

The employer delegations appeared either to favor a convention which contained a very low minimum standard or to oppose any convention establishing a minimum wage for seamen. The position generally of the government groups, with the exception of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and the Latin American group, favored a convention which was "ratifiable”. Such a position meant that the standards presently in existence in Europe would constitute the maximum limits of the convention, and a reasonable and acceptable minimum would be somewhat less than the existing European conditions. On the floor this Government and its supporters favored the establishing of minimum conditions which would at the same time provide decent standards and benefit a substantial portion of the seafarers. The Government position was outlined in my welcoming address to the Conference. I there said, “The object of this Conference, narrowly stated, is to discuss and agree upon international action to improve the social and economic condition of the seafaring men of the world.” Such a position was also presented by Congressman Jackson. (Appendix C)

The seafarers with some exception supported the adoption of a convention. The adoption of a convention, and particularly one establishing a world-wide minimum wage, was of primary importance to the seafarers. It was the seafarers' strong desire to obtain agreement on a wage and hour convention, coupled with the reluctance of some of the more advanced European countries, particularly Great Britain


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