Maritime Safety Week / Seafarers Awareness Week - An Overview

Our Ref: HSR/2/11
13th July 2020

Dear Brother/Sister,


Last week was both Maritime Safety Week and Seafarers Awareness Week. Below are links to some circulars sent to RMT’s maritime members together with press releases which I reproduce below for the information of the wider membership.

Covid-19 has thrown up some incredible challenges for the maritime industry, with thousands of seafarers unable to undertake a normal changeover. This has either has them isolated in some part of the globe unable to return home, or stuck at home facing the uncertainty of whether they will have a job to return to, and the reality of their and their families’ finances being thrown into turmoil.

Closer to home, around the UK shores, we have unscrupulous employers in the ferry sector exploiting the global pandemic to inflict misery on our members and their families, and in the offshore industry the downturn in the global oil market has given many employers the green light to act similarly:

We remembered the 167 workers who, on 6th July 1988, were killed by explosions and fire that destroyed the Piper Alpha Platform in the North Sea.

I asked members to take a moment on Monday to remember the 167 offshore workers and the devastating effect on their families and communities. The loss back then is why we strive to ensure improvements in safety standards for all offshore workers:

The RMT has produced evidence that shipping employers are providing maritime workers with inadequate occupational pension provision when it comes to their obligation to assist their employees with their retirement expectations.

We also have evidence that some of these employers are exploiting foreign seafarers on certain shipping routes by failing to auto-enrol these workers into a qualifying occupational pension scheme which is just another in a long list of employment scandals in the UK shipping industry.

A recent survey the RMT carried out has discovered that some shipping employers will often have two pension schemes but they will deliberately auto-enrol their employees into the pension scheme with the lower employer contribution rate and lower benefits such as life cover.

It is clear that many maritime members are being kept completely in the dark when it comes to pensions, which has led to a higher number then usual opting out of their employer’s pension scheme. This is not acceptable practice and something the RMT intends to campaign strongly around.
We have already begun a maritime pensions campaign which aims to educate, support and provide pension resources to our representatives so that they can raise the profile of pensions with union members:

I have raised the RMT’s concerns and frustration on the status of Inshore Commercial Diving Operations during the current Covid-19 situation with the head of our Parliamentary group. Ian Mearns MP, requesting that he seek and obtain clarification from the Government on this matter.

I have also sought legal opinion on the confusion that seems to stem from the vague definition “essential” works and any possible legal impacts on companies’ insurance, which in turn stops our members from earning: 

As well as noting RMT’s acceptance of Windermere Lake Cruises’ extended furlough arrangements, in line with the wishes of the National Executive Committee, I will be raising the issues that the tourism industry is facing with our Parliamentary Group:

At the National Occupational Health and Safety Committee on 9th July, the RMT commented on the safety culture, or lack of it; safety reps onboard are not playing a big enough role and there should be standardised training requirements for both safety reps and the Safety officer. We complained of the lack of interaction with trade unions and between port workers and seafarers, noting that these issues would be raised at a meeting with the Shipping Minister on 23rd July (originally scheduled for 13th July) 2020.

Other issues which our representatives had an input into at the meeting included asbestos, where the RMT will be providing comments on draft guidance produced over the next few weeks; mental health was also discussed, where the RMT’s press release from earlier that day was referenced.

RMT representatives also contributed to the debate on medication on board, where it was suggested that in terms of privacy, the Master should not be made aware of specific medication brought onboard by an individual (this information being kept elsewhere in terms of data protection).

Finally, I can advise members that the development of an RMT Maritime Health and Safety Strategy is underway, with a view to improving the safety culture around the maritime sector.

Yours Sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary