Enforcing the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for seafarers – Update

Circular No: NP/231/20


Our Ref: S1/7

22nd September 2020

Dear Colleague,

Enforcing the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for seafarers – Update

Further to circular NP/209 of 28th August 2020, I write to update you on the roundtable your Union organised on enforcing the NMW for seafarers which took place yesterday, ahead of the new legislation coming into effect on 1st October this year.

The roundtable, chaired by the TUC heard from the new Shipping Minister, Robert Courts MP, the Employment Minister, Paul Scully MP and Labour’s Shadow Shipping Minister, Mike Kane MP. The regulatory bodies responsible for making this legislation work for seafarers, HMRC NMW Enforcement, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Border Force all made detailed contributions in response to questioning from RMT in a number of areas, from regulatory co-ordination, promotional work, training of inspectors, identifying modern slavery and exercising enforcement powers.

The purpose of this event was to put pressure on the Government and regulators to enforce the new NMW legislation as soon as it comes into force, particularly on those domestic routes where employers such as Seatruck, P&O Ferries and others are employing Ratings on pay well below the RMT’s collectively bargained rate and the UK NMW of £8.72 per hour for over 25s.

We also heard from Chris Given, Head of Government Relations at fellow ITF-affiliate the Seafarers International Union of Canada. The SIU provided an outline of their enforcement work with regulators in Canada following the introduction of new legislation in 2018 which extended employment legislation to foreign seafarers working across the Canadian shipping and inland waterways sector. This provided strong and irrefutable evidence of the boost to local seafarer jobs and the national ship register that enforcement of domestic coastal (‘Cabotage’) legislation can provide, especially when trade unions are part of the enforcement process.

Employer bodies UK Chamber of Shipping, RenewableUK and Oil and Gas UK were also represented. All gave their commitment to ensure full compliance with the new legislation and RenewableUK were particularly vocal in support of a level playing field for UK seafarers in the offshore energy supply chain.

Although enforcement guidance still needs to be produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the roundtable established the urgency of that work and regulators’ plans for contacting employers to alert them to the new legislation.

As part of the Union’s drive to improve standards for seafarers and to reverse the historic decline in Ratings’ jobs held by UK seafarers, we will again be listing those operators and routes where it is clear that action can be taken immediately to enforce new legislation. Regulators are expecting an increase in direct complaints of non or under payment of the NMW as a result of this new legislation and RMT will continue to work hard to promote these cases to the regulators who now have clarity over eligibility and enforceability of the UK NMW for seafarers on domestic routes.

All present agreed to the RMT’s request that they attend another roundtable six months after the new law comes into effect in order to chart progress and any enforcement problems. Information sharing between the Union and regulators will continue in the interim, in order to drive out the exploitative operators, crewing agents and shipowners who seek to undermine UK seafarers’ jobs to protect their profits, even in the event of the global crew change crisis triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic.

I would be grateful if you could bring the content of this circular to the attention of all members in your Branch and you will be kept updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary