- It's been a long struggle, but now we get the same terms as the Swedes who work on board. My salary was increased by 33 percent, and my father may be 75 percent higher wages.
It says Talat Butt on Ålandsfärjan Baltic Star. This week he begins his first leave since November 1997.
- It feels good to be able to go home to Kashmir. Now I'll be off for three months. Overall, I am now entitled to 13 months' paid leave, for the time I worked here.
Ever since the 1970s have the Panamanian registered ferry Baltic Star had crew members from Pakistan and Kashmir. On paper, they have been entitled to the same conditions as the rest of the crew, who all worked in the Swedish collective agreement. Things were different in real life.
Last spring was the bubble burst. Talat Butt, who had contacts at the Seamen's Club in Stockholm, started asking questions. And suddenly came to light years of the contract.
- We all had the same salary and received the 6800 SEK after taxes, regardless of the service we had or how long we have been employed. My father, who worked on ships for 15 years and was head-steward, had paid as much as I do when I was hired. We worked seven days a week and working days were very long. I have not had a day off since I started working on board, "says Talat Butt.
The pay claim is now the subject expire two years ago. 22 Pakistanis and two Kashmiri get together out pay claims for a total of one million dollars. For it is earned leave, which corresponds to a value of about three million. The leave shall not be charged just as leave.
Together with the union, the company also made up new schedules, which can be applied to those who live so far away. Talat will continue to work three months and then be off three months.
"It is an incredible victory for me and the others. There is much that is changing for us now. There have been other foreigners on board, too, Spaniards and Poles, but they've got Swedish conditions all the time. It is only us who had black hair and black leather that is treated differently. Some said we were monkeys and donkeys who would work hard.
Why then has the union made no earlier?
- We have been on board regularly on the ferry and talked to the Pakistanis who are members with us. They have always said that everything is okay and that they had no problems. We have not had reason to question the data, "says Chang Stromberg who is ombudsman at Seko seafarers in Stockholm and the one who negotiated with the shipping company.
Guided group hard
It explains Talat Butt with the Pakistanis had its own curator, also from Pakistan, who steered the group hard and prevented them to contact the outside world.
Talat had the courage to challenge the system - and he is happy and satisfied with the backing of the union.
- I come from Kashmir. In Kashmir, we suffer too, and I have a political background from there. I have learned to pick a fight against injustice. When I started there were only six men who stood behind me, but now everyone is happy.
- We are no strangers without rights. Workers everywhere have the same problem, regardless of religion and skin color. Can we just agree, we will win.
Ånedinlinjen behind Baltic Star is managed today by the estate of owner Fred Sindahl, who died 1998th Until his death he managed the handling of the Pakistani crew members' salaries and allowances. The estate has, according to Chang Stromberg, been very accommodating and keen to sort out any irregularities.
24 pakistanska besättningsmedlemmar på Ålandsfärjan Baltic Star får dela på ungefär en miljon kronor i innestående löner, efter att kollektivavtalet tillämpats felaktigt. Dessutom har de rätt till intjänade ledigheter motsvarande tre miljoner kronor.
- Nu ska vi gemensamt göra ett schema som går att tillämpa. Pakistanierna har ju rätt att arbeta ombord i svenska fartyg och de går på svenska avtal, men de har inte rätt att bo i Sverige under sin ledighet och då kan man ju inte tillämpa de vanliga avlösningsperioderna i färjeavtalet på en eller två veckor, säger Chang Strömberg som är ombudsman på Seko sjöfolk i Stockholm som förhandlat med rederiet.
Pakistanska besättningsmedlemmar har funnit sedan 1970-talet på ms Baltic Star och under hela tiden har de varit anslutna till det svenska facket. I sommar uppdagades att det svenska kollektivavtal, som de omfattas av, har tillämpats felaktigt i många år.
Framför allt gäller bristerna intjänad ledighet, på grund av att de inte får bosätta sig i Sverige. De lönefordringar som nu regleras sträcker sig två år tillbaka i tiden. Lönefordringarna utbetalas kontant och rutinerna för utbetalning ändras från 1 september, men den intjänade ledigheten skall tas ut i just ledighet.
Varför har då facket inte gjort något tidigare?
- Vi har varit ombord regelbundet i färjan och pratat med pakistanierna många gånger. Då har de alltid sagt att allt fungerar bra och att de inte haft några problem. Vi har inte haft anledning att ifrågasätta deras uppgifter, säger Chang Strömberg.
På rederikontoret sköttes hanteringen av de pakistanska besättningmedlemmarnas löner och ersättningar av ägaren själv, Fredrik Sindahl, fram till dennes död hösten 1998.