Update on seafarers and the National Minimum Wage (NMW)

Circular No: NP/007/17


Our Ref: S1/7

17th January 2017

Dear Colleague,

Update on seafarers and the National Minimum Wage (NMW)

Further to circular no.NP/164 of 8th September 2015, I write to update you on the  union’s long term campaign for the NMW to be applied to seafarers which continued throughout 2016 and is a central aim of the SOS 2020 campaign launched in October last year.

The union repeatedly raised this issue with Government Ministers and officials ahead of the publication of the Maritime Growth Study and during 2016, with detailed discussion taking place on the existing guidance to HMRC on enforcement for seafarers. In September 2016, the union also submitted a third party complaint to HMRC of non-payment of the NMW by employers in the ‘Ships of Shame’ table attached to the end of this circular.

The Low Pay Commission also recommended to Government in March 2016 that the third party complaint system be governed by a ‘public protocol’ which would require HMRC to keep the third party updated with the progress of their complaint(s). To date, the Government has not responded to this recommendation, despite repeated requests from the union and MPs in the RMT Parliamentary Group.

The National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour for workers aged 25+ was introduced in April 2016 and the National Minimum Wage for workers aged 21-24 years increased to £6.95p.h. on 1st October 2016. All increases to the National Living and National Minimum Wages will now be applied in April every year, starting from 1st April 2017.

In response to a question about sub-NMW pay on Seatruck vessels on 17th November, the Shipping Minister John Hayes MP announced a review of the application of the NMW in the ‘offshore sector.’ Subsequent Written Questions were tabled for the union by Labour’s Shadow Shipping Minister, Richard Burden MP seeking to clarify that this review will apply to seafarers in all sectors of the shipping industry. The Minister confirmed that it would apply to all seafarers and that the maritime unions RMT and Nautilus, along with shipowners and Government departments would be conducting the review.

This effectively reconvenes the Legal Working Group on the NMW and seafarers formed in 2009 by the last Labour Government, to which the RMT made significant contributions. That Legal Working Group reported its findings to the Coalition in August 2010. Although the recommendations it made resulted in a change in Government policy to an ‘in personam’ approach (applying the NMW protections to individual seafarers rather than the entire vessel), no seafarer has since made a direct complaint to HMRC of non-payment of the NMW, despite ample evidence that sub-NMW pay rates are rife in the UK shipping industry.

The lack of complaints can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, non-UK seafarers pursuing a complaint of non-payment of the UK NMW would almost certainly be black listed by maritime recruitment agencies in their countries of origin; secondly, the short term contracts used to hire non-UK Ratings are not long enough for a seafarer to pursue a non-NMW payment complaint to the end; and thirdly, the ending of state support for Employment Tribunal cases makes it even less likely that a non-UK seafarer would pursue a case to its full conclusion. The new Legal Working Group will have to take full account of these factors and your union will be certain to raise them.

It should also be noted that the union’s campaign to persuade the Scottish Government to end the unjust time charter for the Seatruck freighters Helliar and Hildasay has recently resulted in the commitment to apply the National Minimum/Living Wage protections for seafarer pay on these vessels. This is an important precedent ahead of the Legal Working Group which is expected to have its first meeting at the end of February. You will be kept updated with progress, particularly the final recommendations to Government.

RMT members and officials can also participate in an online seminar on NMW enforcement being held by HMRC and TUC tomorrow, 1-2pm Wednesday 18th January. In order to join, you need to click on or cut and paste this link: http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/?u=2d1900547cfce7662f08dc53f&id=af8048ab56&e=1168473848

I would be grateful if you could bring the content of this circular to the attention of all members in your Branch.

Yours sincerely


Mick Cash
General Secretary

Seafarer rating pay rates below the NMW in the UK shipping sector

[Submitted to HMRC Sept 2016]

(Source: ITF Inspections and individual contracts of employment)



Basic rate of pay (per hour)

Flag of vessel



Crew (total ratings)

Condor Ferries

Portsmouth, Poole and Weymouth to Jersey and Guernsey


(passenger and freight)







(MV Daroja)


(freight only)


Indian & Russian


P&O Ferries (Irish Sea)

Larne-Cairnryan; Dublin-Liverpool

£4.70 (passenger) & £3.65 (freight)

Bahamas & Bermudan

Filipino, Latvian, Spanish,




Heysham-Dublin; Liverpool-Dublin; Heysham-Warrenpoint



Isle of Man, Cyprus and Bahamas




Aberdeen-Lerwick (MV Helliar & MS Hildasay – Chartered by Serco NorthLink)



Isle of Man



Irish Ferries

Dublin-Holyhead; Rosslare-Pembroke



Cyprus, Bahamas & Italy

Estonian & Polish


P&O Ferries (North Sea)

Hull-Zeebrugge; Hull-Rotterdam


(passenger & freight)




Stena Line (North Sea)

Harwich-Hook of Holland

£2.39 (freight)





Rosyth – Zeebrugge

(Finlandia Seaways)

£1.64 per hour (freight)





Newcastle – Ijmuiden (Amsterdam)

(Princess Seaways & King Seaways)

£2.93 per hour (passenger)


Danish International Ship Register




(Chartered by P&O)

(MV Wilhelmine)

£5.30 per hour (freight)




Estimated total of crew potentially affected: 898