National Minimum Wage NMW protection for seafarers

Circular No: NP/209/20


Our Ref: S1/7

24th August 2020

Dear Colleague,

National Minimum Wage (NMW) protection for seafarers

Further to circular NP/109 of 14th June 2019, I am pleased to inform you that the Union’s long standing campaign to extend the basic protections in the NMW Act 1998 to seafarers has finally resulted in a change to the law in favour of seafarers.

Following on from the commitments given by the Shipping Minister in the House of Commons in June 2019, the Union maintained pressure for legislation in line with the recommendations of the Legal Working Group on Seafarers and the NMW. Despite missing repeated deadlines, the Government finally published the draft secondary regulations in May 2020. Your Union was satisfied that they were in line with what was agreed in the Legal Working Group and briefed the Labour frontbench in the Commons and the Lords. The regulations were passed at the end of June and will come into law across the UK in October.

Applying NMW protections for seafarers on domestic merchant shipping routes, including the offshore energy sector is of course a modest success in the context of the ‘low cost’ crewing model on international routes but it will bring an estimated 13,000 Ratings of all nationalities working in the UK shipping industry into scope of UK employment law.

Your union is seeking a meeting with the relevant Government departments to ensure that enforcement of the amended legislation is applied and seafarers no longer continue to be exploited on the rates of pay highlighted by your union in recent years in all sectors of the shipping industry.

In the debate of the regulations in the Commons, the Government rejected the Union’s proposal, put forward by Labour’s shadow Shipping Minister Mike Kane MP to reconvene the Legal Working Group to look at applying the National Minimum Wage and wider employment protections for UK Ratings working on international routes from UK ports which are not covered by this reform.

Instead, the Union will focus our work to increase UK seafarer employment and training on international routes in the Department for Transport’s ‘Maritime Restart and Recovery Group,’ which has been established in response to the impact of Covid-19 on shipping and maritime as a whole. RMT, Nautilus and Unite are all represented on this Group.

The fight goes on for stronger, comprehensive employment protections for all seafarers working from UK ports. Despite the restrictions on physical campaigning under the SOS 2020 banner, your Union is maintaining the political and industrial pressure on the Government to regulate shipping companies and crewing agencies that profit from seafarer exploitation in our ports and waters and to dramatically increase the number of UK Ratings at work and in training.

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