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UK: Government Legislation To Expand National Minimum Wage Coverage To Seafarers Not Strong Enough

After the disgraceful decision by P&O Ferries to sack 786 seafarer and replace them with agency crew, some paid less than the UK national minimum wage, the UK government committed to expanding national minimum wage coverage for seafarers.

Yesterday, July 6th, the government laid the first reading of the ‘Seafarers’ Wages Bill’ before the House of Lords.

Nautilus supports efforts to expand national minimum wage coverage. However, this bill, as presented, will struggle to enact a meaningful NMW as it includes loopholes that would allow operators to avoid complying with the legislation.

The bill, as presented, appears to relate to vessels docking at a specific port, this could lead to ferry operators ‘port hopping’ to avoid having to pay seafarers the minimum wage. As expected, the bill means port authorities would be responsible for ensuring operators pay their seafarers the minimum wage. We are clear, port authorities are not the appropriate body to ensure compliance, not least as some ferry operators are also port authorities. The bill is effectively asking some operators ‘to mark their own homework’.

Despite good intentions from government, this legislation in its current form would not end exploitation of seafarers in our waters. The bill will continue its passage through Parliament where significant amendments will be required to ensure this bill can achieve its desired outcome.

Government must also acknowledge that P&O Ferries exposed more than just lack of minimum wage coverage. Nautilus members benefitted from Union negotiated pay and conditions through a collective bargaining agreement P&O Ferries unliterally and illegally undermined. Action on minimum wage is not enough, government must support our ‘Fair Ferries Framework’ to end the turbo-charged race to the bottom in pay and conditions by P&O Ferries.

Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson said “We welcome the introduction of this bill as it shows government are serious about expanding minimum wage coverage for seafarers. However, government must close the loopholes within the legislation to ensure this desire can become a reality.

“Nautilus alongside others, have presented to government our ‘Fair Ferries Strategy’ that would expand social protections for seafarers operating in UK waters, beyond just the minimum wage. It would create pay and working conditions reflective of local standards, not international minimums. This is the only way to ensure P&O Ferries jobs massacre can never happen again.”
Source: Nautilus International

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