Pay discrimination on Seatruck vessels

Circular No: NP/006/17


Our ref: S1/1/17

17th January 2017

Dear Colleagues

Pay discrimination on Seatruck vessels

Further to circular no. NP/0230/16 of 3rd October 2016, I write to update you on a significant victory in the union’s long term campaigns in the maritime industry to end the widespread practices of nationality based pay discrimination and sub-minimum wage pay.

As a direct result of the union’s campaigning since 2014, led by RMT members and officials in Scotland, the Scottish Government announced last week that the charter agreement for the two Seatruck vessels Helliar and Hildasay will be changed to ensure that the National Minimum Wage of £6.95 per hour (for 21-24 year olds) and the National Living Wage of £7.20p.h. (25 years and over), at the very least, is paid to seafarers working on these vessels.

At present, seafarers employed by Seatruck on these Isle of Man flagged vessels are paid well below the National Minimum Wage. During the latter stages of the campaign, Seatruck publicly confirmed that ratings on these vessels are currently paid £4.61p.h. The Scottish Government is proposing that the current ‘time’ charter agreement for these vessels is replaced by a ‘bareboat’ charter agreement, under which the crew are no longer employees of the shipowner, Seatruck.

The union is demanding that the planned changes to the charter result in pay increases to the collectively bargained rate the union has negotiated for our seafarer rating members employed by Serco NorthLink on the Hrossey, Hamnavoe and Hjaltland passenger ferries which are part of the same contract between Transport Scotland and Serco NorthLink for Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS).

The RMT Scottish Parliamentary Group Convenor, Elaine Smith MSP has tabled a Motion in the Scottish Parliament welcoming this move and highlighting the RMT’s successful campaign against the previous charter agreement which undermined the National Minimum Wage. The motion also calls for the collectively bargained rate of pay to apply under the new charter and for the next NIFS contract (due for re-tender in the next month or so) to ensure that no charter or other vessel engaged to work on this public contract is outside the collective bargaining agreements with the domestic maritime unions. The full text of the motion is at the end of this circular.  

This announcement is also an early victory in the union's SOS 2020 campaign, launched in October last year. We have established the principle that seafarers working on routes between UK ports should be afforded the basic protection of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. In doing so, RMT members and their union have again demonstrated that the principle of solidarity and committed campaigning in the shipping industry gets results.

We await the final details of the new charter arrangements for the Helliar and Hildasay and the UK Government’s response to this case and the issues it raises around National Minimum Wage enforcement for seafarers in the domestic shipping industry.

You will be kept updated with further developments, including the progress of the national SOS 2020 campaign.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary

Motion S5M-03398: Elaine Smith, Central Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/01/2017 R
Seafarer Employment Conditions on Northern Isles Ferries
That the Parliament welcomes the announcement of changes to the charter agreement between Serco NorthLink and Seatruck Ferries for the Helliar and Hildasay freight vessels as part of the public contract for Northern Isles ferry services; understands that Seatruck Ferries has confirmed that Estonian seafarers on these vessels are currently paid around £4.61 per hour; congratulates members of the RMT union on their campaign to highlight the exploitation of seafarers and for the crew on these vessels to be covered by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that applies to seafarer ratings working on the Hrossey, Hamnavoe and Hjaltland passenger ferries as part of the same contract between Transport Scotland and Serco NorthLink; believes that nationality-based pay discrimination against seafarers should be outlawed; further believes that ratings working on the Helliar and Hildasay should be covered by the existing CBA when the new charter arrangements are introduced in February 2017, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that all owned, leased or chartered vessels used to deliver all future contracts for lifeline Scottish ferry services are covered by CBAs with the domestic seafarer unions.