25 June 2021
RMT Press Office:
SEAFARER Union RMT marks Day of the Seafarer with a call on Ratings to join a trade union to secure a fair future in the shipping industry.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch said:
“Seafarers in the UK don’t know whether they have a future, let alone a fair one as investment in training the next generation of Ratings is practically non-existent. Seafarer exploitation is endemic, from the offshore energy supply chain to the short sea ferries which sustained our economy throughout the pandemic. The number of UK Ratings in employment or training has fallen by an estimated 10% during the pandemic but those jobs have not left the country for ever, they are returning but are now filled by seafarers on sub-minimum wage, anti-union voyage contracts with little or no protection.
“RMT urges all Ratings and Officers in the UK and across the world to join a trade union to deliver the fair, safe and sustainable shipping industry that is in all of our interests.
“The current path is set by shipowners and they are banking on the current generation of Ratings leaving the industry without a fight. That would lead to a disastrous future of even longer hours, job cuts, fatigue and low pay for seafarers. Joining a trade union is the best way for seafarers to fight back collectively against this race to the bottom.
“We know that shipowners and crewing agents rely on discrimination against seafarers to profit from an economically essential industry, yet governments across the world sit back and let it happen. A concerted industrial response from seafarers is essential to end nationality based pay and other forms of seafarer discrimination which the Maritime Labour Convention does not currently address.
“International regulations should not deter domestic Governments from investing in jobs or training for Ratings on international routes.
“The Government here has responded sympathetically to the crew change crisis and extended the National Minimum Wage to seafarers on domestic routes but cases like the Glomar Wave, the growth of low cost operators like Irish Ferries and exploitative rates of pay being offered by crewing agencies demonstrate the need for further legislation and increased enforcement of current National regulations to close the many loopholes within the industry to secure a fair future for Ratings in the UK with quality jobs, decent rates of pay, pension provision and safe roster patterns.
“On Day of the Seafarer 2021, RMT sends a clear message to Ratings in the UK and across the world that the road to a fair future will only be travelled together – join a union.”
- The International Maritime Organisation’s Day of the Seafarer is an annual event. This year’s theme is ‘Fair Future for Seafarers.’
- RMT organises Ratings in the merchant shipping industry. Ratings are skilled and semi-skilled seafarers who work across all departments on all types of trading merchant vessels, and in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
- According to the Department for Transport, as of June 2020 there were just over 9,000 UK Ratings, accounting for under 14% of all Ratings jobs in the UK shipping industry. The DfT figures also show that only 166 people have started a Deck Rating apprenticeship since 2017-18, with no figures for anyone being trained as a Rating in engine, catering or on-board services departments. In 2019-20, a total of 1,600 UK Officer Cadets were being trained.
- According to the International Chamber of Shipping’s pre-pandemic estimates, there are over 1.64m seafarers around the world - 873,500 Ratings and 774,000 are Officers. Before the impact of Coronavirus, there was a global surplus of Ratings and a shortage of Officers.
- RMT estimate that over 1,000 UK seafarers have been made redundant or cannot find work over the pandemic. The vast majority of these job losses are amongst Ratings, particularly at P&O Ferries where over 500 Ratings were made redundant in Dover and Hull in late summer 2020. We believe that this accounts for 10% of UK Ratings jobs in the DfT’s statistics.
- In May 2021, during a visit to Great Yarmouth, RMT and ITF officials uncovered evidence that crew on the Panama registered Glomar Wave were being paid below £4 per hour, well below the UK National Minimum Wage of £8.91 per hour and in contravention of legislation which came into force on 1 October 2020, after a concerted campaign by the UK maritime unions, RMT and Nautilus International.
- The World Maritime University’s EVREST report from November 2020 highlighted the endemic culture of misreporting of seafarers’ hours of work and rest in the shipping industry, raising serious fears over seafarer fatigue, maritime safety and contracts of employment. The WMU report was highlighted by EDM 1481 during the 2019-21 session of the UK Parliament.
- It is widely accepted that the crew change crisis, which continues to affect over 200,000 seafarers trapped on or waiting to join ships, has had a significant impact on seafarers’ mental health and well being. In November 2019, Cardiff University published a report which found “…evidence of an increase in recent-onset anxiety and depression among serving seafarers and there is evidence that in some roles seafarers may be particularly prone to emotional exhaustion and ‘burn-out’.”