12 October 2016
RMT Press Office:
SEAFARER RATINGS UNION RMT is launching a campaign today in the House of Commons to fight the decline in UK seafaring numbers.
The Launch will be held in Dining Room A, House of Commons, 4-6pm, Wednesday 12 October. An Early Day Motion has also been tabled today.
Ratings are specialist maritime staff with a variety of responsibilities, from the operation of the vessel in the deck or engine departments to preparing, cooking or serving food and drink to crew and passengers on a diverse range of merchant ships. In the early 1980s, there were around 30,000 Ratings working at sea in the UK merchant navy – by June 2015, there were 8,830 Ratings out of a total UK seafarer workforce of 23,380.
Since 2011 the number of UK Ratings has fallen by 25% and the total number of UK seafarers decreased by over 13%. This damage of this decline is accentuated by the age profile of UK seafarers working today – they are ageing, with half of UK Ratings aged over 40 years, rising to 74% and 76% respectively amongst Deck and Engine Ratings.
2020 will see the retirement of thousands of UK Seafarers, exposing this country to the negative economic, social and security effects of a major maritime skills deficit, unless training and employment rates pick up and rise significantly over the next four years.
Non-UK Ratings continue to be recruited on rates of pay below the legal UK minimum. This unfair competition blocks UK seafarers’ access to work, damages the maritime skills base and drives down employment standards, training and pay across the industry.
RMT’s SOS 2020 campaign is a clarion call for Government and industry to respond to the maritime skills crisis with co-ordinated actions that will increase the number of UK seafarers in training and employment before it is too late. The campaign has the following aims:
1. Equal rights in employment, equality and immigration law for UK seafarers
2. Domestic ‘cabotage’ (transport between UK ports) protections for UK crew and flag
3. Statutory annual target for training new UK Ratings
4. Safe ships in safe seas – higher safety standards in UK shipping
5. Protect the Royal Fleet Auxiliary from privatisation
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary said:
“Merchant shipping handles 95 per cent of the UK’s internationally traded good and carries over 22 million passengers making a direct contribution to the UK economy of over £3 billion every year.
“Yet, successive Governments have pursued shipping policies based on de-regulation which promotes discrimination against UK seafarers and the exploitation of foreign seafarers in order to cut labour costs.
“De-regulation is a race to the bottom which ultimately pits the national interest against those of international shipowners. In these circumstances, UK seafarers and future generations of workers will inevitably lose out.
We are launching SOS20 as a call for the Government and maritime industry to take urgent action”
The Parliamentary Early Day Motion below was tabled today.
SOS 2020 campaign for UK seafarers
That this House notes that merchant shipping handles 95 per cent of the UK’s internationally traded goods, carries over 22 million passengers and makes a direct contribution to the UK economy of over £3 billion every year; is concerned that UK seafarer numbers have fallen by nearly 60 per cent in the last 30 years and that UK seafarers are ageing, with a significant number of Ratings and Officers expected to retire by 2020; notes that this decline is the result of factors such as the exclusion of seafarers from full employment and equality rights, persistently low levels of training, public unawareness and the rise of Flag of Convenience registers; believes that the UK is on the verge of a maritime skills crisis which threatens our national economic, social and security interests; is alarmed that rates of pay well below the National Minimum Wage are common amongst non-UK Ratings recruited overseas to work on ships from UK ports; and calls upon the Government to support the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ SOS 2020 campaign to repair the maritime skills base by extending employment and equality rights, safety standards and jobs and training for UK seafarers.