Foremost in its task to promote the welfare and rights of seafarers is the need to have a strong legal component. Creating a legal assistance unit, UFS was able to provide the necessary representation to thousands of its members and more for other seafarers in dire need of such service.

Refusing to buckle to pressures by high-powered lawyers, the legal assistance unit of UFS fought and won all the monetary claims of its members, mostly in record-breaking fashions. The legal assistance unit remains undaunted by well-oiled opponents who kow­tow to every wish of the agents of shipowners they represent.

However, the court is not the only the arena where UFS fights its battles for benefits and welfare of seafarers, it also subscribes to voluntary arbitration in the matter of conflict resolution.

In fact, Engr. Ramirez has been accredited by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board as a voluntary arbitrator and trained to settle cases parallel to the objectives of a just,

comprehensive, and meaningful industrial peace in the maritime sector. Oftentimes, the power of negotiation, which the UFS president exemplifies, saves agents of employers, including the UFS, legal assistance unit, precious time (even money) in going through the court grind, resolving issues even through phone calls.

In information dissemination, UFS is the unchallenged leader among local unions. With the publication of the bi-monthly newspaper Tinig ng Marino (Voice of the Seafarers), UFS touches base with over 500,000 seafarers all over the world. Distributed in more than 400 ports worldwide, Tinig ng Marino presents a clear, incisive, and objective insight into the issues concerning the seafarer and the evolution of the industry where they are part of.

The only globally-circulated Filipino maritime newspaper, Tinig ng Marino is daunting, but it observes the highest tenets of maritime journalism. It features industry updates, expert opinion through the various columns, news briefs, humor at sea, and incisive reportage on the travails of seafarer, whether at sea or on land. Today, apart from being the most widely sought-after read in the industry, Tinig ng Marino is the most influential maritime newspaper in the Philippines.

For a time, the UFS also complemented its massive information dissemination through Tinig ng Marino with five regular radio programs either hosted or co-hosted by Engr. Ramirez to further stir the senses of the seafarers and stalwarts of the maritime industry. Engr. Ramirez tackles the whole gamut of issues in the maritime sector in a very informative, yet unorthodox manner, making fiery commentary on burning maritime issues and laconic broadsides on government agencies and institutions, manning agents and shipowners, and other entities that make life difficult for seafarers.

Through his five radio programs that were once aired in local stations in the cities of Manila, Dagupan, Ozamiz, Tagbilaran and Dipolog, Engr. Ramirez practically defied the norms of radio broadcasting and got away with his own brand of irreverence in castigating those who take advantage of seafarers, particularly maritime schools that shortchange their students, or maritime training centers that bleed their trainees’ pockets dry, or some scrupulous manning agents that capitalize on the gullibility of seafarer-applicants.

Through his previous radio programs and and his hard-hitting regular column in Tinig ng Marino, Engr. Ramirez has earned the moniker of a “fearless critic,” lambasting government agencies, and its officials, that give seafarers the run-around and fleece them of their hard-earned cash. He also scoffs at individuals and other private entities, intentionally transgressing the civil language of broadcasting with employment contracts and also during the period from pre-departure to the first salary of new seafarers.

UFS has also set up a loan assistance package that charges social interest rates to provide seafarers a hedge against loan sharks that prey on seafarers badly in need of bridge financing. An average of P5 to P7 million is being extended to seafarers every month with thousands of UFS members and non-member seafarers already availing or the low-interest cash loans.

Related Stories