7 May 2020
RMT Press Office:
RATINGS’ UNION RMT today welcomed the publication of legislation to extend the National Minimum Wage to cover all seafarers working on merchant ships on domestic routes, regardless of where the ship is registered.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said:
“We welcome this but it is a small victory in the scheme of things. The legislation will secure an enforceable legal baseline, currently £8.21 per hour for seafarer pay on domestic ferry, offshore supply and cargo routes between UK ports and the UK continental shelf which is long overdue.
“It will not however affect international routes from UK ports, for example from the UK to the European mainland, where operators have been paying foreign seafarers as little as £2 per hour for years on routes that are now in line for no-strings taxpayer bail outs.
“Some operators, like P&O even see Covid-19 as their chance to permanently replace UK Ratings with cheaper crews from thousands of miles away on pay below the minimum wage. We need a plan that responds to the problems our economy and society face from Covid-19 fall out rather than to the short term interests of shipping companies and their debt-ridden owners.”
Notes for editors
1. The regulations implement the findings of the Department for Transport-chaired Legal Working Group on Seafarers and the NMW on which the RMT sat. The Legal Working Group was reconvened at the RMT's request in 2017 to look at legislative protection for UK seafarers' from the low cost crewing model which has seen UK Ratings systematically replaced over the last 30 years so that they only accounted for 19% of seafarers in the UK shipping industry, according to the most recent Government statistics. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/seafarers-in-the-uk-shipping-industry-2019
2. The Government narrowed the scope of the Working Group to conditions on domestic (UK-UK) and offshore energy routes, primarily North Sea oil and gas installations.
3. RMT has been campaigning since the late 1990s for National Minimum Wage legislation to cover seafarers employed on ships working from UK ports, to provide a baseline to better protect UK Ratings jobs from basic rates of pay sometimes below £2 per hour.
4. This practice, known as 'low cost' crewing has seen employers like P&O Ferries replace UK seafarers with foreign crews on sub-NMW pay that also undermines collectively bargained terms and conditions in the UK shipping industry. The temporary collapse in demand due to Coronavirus has seen some employers seek permanent replacement of UK crews in the passenger ferry sector.