Our Ref: SH/5/6
26th March 2020
Payment of Wages and Sick Pay Arrangements, Coronavirus - DFDS
I am writing to keep you advised of the current situation at DFDS in light of the current coronavirus crisis. You will be aware that DFDS has suspended passenger transport and is now only carrying freight. Management has advised the RMT that it is their intention that if things do not change they will reduce the OBS crew. Unfortunately, the company have been unable to confirm the employment status of seafarers once they have been sent home. Ominously, DFDS stated that there would be initial payments to employees sent home, however, these would not be guaranteed indefinitely.
In light of the UK government’s announcement that it will pay 80% of the salary of staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month, during this global health pandemic. I have written to DFDS demanding that any plans to lay off staff or make them redundant are immediately stopped and that all wage levels remain as they were at the start of this crisis. The ferry sector is crucial to the nation at this moment in time for the movement of essential during this crisis.
The company has also advised us that they could have severe logistical problems with regards to repatriation should any seafarers contract the coronavirus. I have urged management to be more proactive on this matter and make sure that quarantine arrangements are in place with national governments and relevant local authorities.
I want to ensure you that the RMT will continue to fight and represent our members’ interests at all times and at all levels during this crisis. Your union is in active daily dialogue with both the Department of Transport and the MCA to ensure that your safety, welfare and conditions of employment are protected. I have written to the MCA asking for specific guidance on COVID-19 for seafarers and I am seeking urgent confirmation from the government to ensure that up to 80% of seafarers’ wages will be covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, similar to the scheme operated in Denmark whereby the state covers 75% of employees’ wages during the crisis.
In these uncertain times communication is vital. I would be grateful if you could help your union keep our records accurate. If you have moved or changed jobs, or if you have a new mobile number/e-mail address you can update your details via the members’ area of the RMT website www.rmt.org.uk
I would like to conclude by paying tribute to the work that you and your colleagues are undertaking at the moment. The current circumstances as you will be fully aware are unprecedented. The nation is relying on its seafarers to keep the vessels transporting the everyday essentials that the UK requires.
I trust this keeps you fully advised and I will write again when there are new developments.