Officers Employed in Rating Positions

Circular No: NP/239/20


Our Ref: S1/4/20

2nd October 2020

Dear Colleague,

Officers Employed in Rating Positions

I am writing to update you on the action your Union is taking to tackle an increasing problem in the shipping industry where employers are filling Ratings vacancies with newly qualified Officers.

In line with the previous NEC instruction, in January I wrote to all Regional Organisers with shipping responsibilities advising them of the Union’s policy on this matter and asking them to raise any instances of Officers being employed as Ratings through the formal disputes procedure. I also wrote at that time to the General Secretary of our sister union Nautilus International and the Chair of the Merchant Navy Training Board, Kathryn Neilson to state RMT policy and to raise our serious concerns over this unacceptable practice which denies jobs and income to our members in the shipping industry. In response, commitments to discuss this matter were given but meaningful discussions have not materialised.

Earlier this week, the CEO of crewing agent Clyde Marine, which provides agency crew to most of the ferry companies where RMT has recognition published an article in which he casually states that Clyde Marine has been “…using a significant number of ex Officer Cadets to fill ratings vacancies recently and it is very pleasing to see them develop and improve their seamanship skills.”

This evidence confirms our suspicion that using Officers to fill vacancies for Ratings positions is becoming common practice. Your Union’s policy is to oppose newly qualified officer cadets or any other officers from taking up Ratings’ jobs. We have raised Clyde Marine’s candid admission with the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

I have also written again to Nautilus and the Merchant Navy Training Board to demand an urgent meeting to discuss measures to stop employers from recruiting Officers to work in Ratings positions. Your Union is fighting for more Ratings apprenticeships and jobs and we should not face competition for those jobs from Officers.

This problem exposes a deeper inequality in our shipping industry whereby Ratings training is a cosmetic after thought amongst Government and employers whilst the training of Officer Cadets is governed by targets and receives the vast majority of public funding. The crew change crisis triggered by Covid-19 painfully illustrates that this country needs to immediately train and employ UK Ratings on a scale not seen since the 1980s and we will continue to press this demand as part of the fight for the future of UK Ratings.

If RMT officers, reps or members have evidence of employers using Officers to do Ratings’ jobs, you are advised to;

• Immediately inform the Industrial Relations Department so the union can raise this through the formal dispute procedure.
• Copy the evidence to the National Policy Department so that the case is recorded and used in the campaign to stop this practice.

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