24 July 2023
RMT Press Office:
SEAFARER UNION RMT today responded to the bilateral agreement between the UK and French Governments over voluntary seafarer employment and welfare standards, launched at a signing ceremony in Paris, where the UK Government is represented by the Maritime Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton.
Bilateral agreements with other nations on short sea shipping routes from the UK were part of the Government’s Nine Point Plan in response to P&O Ferries and DP World’s unlawful attacks on 786 UK seafarers and apprentices sixteen months ago.
The UK Government has also launched a voluntary seafarers charter.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “This agreement recognises the threat that unlawful operators like P&O Ferries continue to represent to seafarers across the UK and Europe. We need mandatory employment standards to grow jobs for our Ratings and Officers on short sea shipping routes from all UK ports, including to France. RMT look forward, with optimism to working on delivering fair pay and a new deal for this country’s seafarers, consistent with the trade union rights of French seafarers on international routes, when the voluntary seafarers charter is reviewed after the next General Election.
“Now it’s over to P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries, crewing agents and other shipowners to confirm whether they will or will not comply with the seafarers charter, including the two week on two week off roster pattern.”
Notes to Editors
- In response to the public and political outcry over P&O Ferries openly illegal dismissal of 786 UK Ratings and Officers on 17 March 2022, immediately replacing them with agency crew recruited from overseas, the then Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps introduced a Nine Point Plan in the Commons on 30 March 2022. This included the following commitment: “I will now work quickly with my counterparts to explore the creation of minimum wage corridors between our nations, and we will also ask unions and operators to agree common levels of seafarer protection on those routes.”
- The UK Government has also introduced the Seafarers Wages Act 2023, although this is not fully in force and will only apply an equivalent to the UK National Minimum Wage to work seafarers do in UK territorial waters (12 miles from the coast line).
- P&O Ferries announced in June that it will be using a new Malta based crewing agent to supply seafarers to operate its ships on international routes from UK ports. In a document issued to their crew, P&O said: “Where there is a requirement for the Seafarers wage bill [sic] to be implemented, we will ensure we follow all legal requirements.” And that “All current contract lengths will remain as they are.”
- The agreement between the UK and French Governments does not cover seafarers on P&O Ferries’ services between Hull-Rotterdam and Liverpool-Dublin. The UK Government has no other voluntary bilateral agreements with European countries over seafarer employment and/or welfare standards.
- Agency crew on P&O Ferries’ Dover-Calais ships are paid under £4 per hour basic and work up to 17 weeks on ship with no shore leave.