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Employment and working conditions

The EU attaches importance to the working and living conditions on board also because they contribute to maritime safety by preventing accidents caused by human factors. The EU acquis on labour law, equality, and non discrimination is quite substantial for EU workers and is applicable to seafarers with some exceptions currently under review by the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities .

Concerning the specific legislation for seafarers on working time, Council Directive 1999/63/EC aims to protect the health and safety of seafarers by laying down minimum requirements with regard to working time, while Directive 1999/95/EC aims to improve safety at sea, combat unfair competition from third-country ship owners and protect the health and safety of seafarers on board ships using EU ports.

At international level, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has adopted the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) to ensure both decent working and living conditions on board and fairer conditions of competition for operators respectful of rules and often disadvantaged by substandard shipping. The EU strongly supports the MLC and its objective of level playing field. The EU has transposed the relevant parts of the MLC in its law through a social agreement concluded by the European Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA ) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF ) framework of the sectoral social dialogue committee for maritime transport created in order to foster dialogue between the social partners at European level.

This social agreement was converted in EU Law with the Council Directive 2009/13/EC to complement the acquis and to ensure the effective enforcement of these provisions.