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Nautilus has committed to increase its efforts to secure fair pay and working conditions for seafarers, following a vote of members at the Union's General Meeting in Liverpool.

The motion Creating fair pay and conditions highlighted member concerns over increasing exploitation of maritime professionals, with jobs, pay and conditions continually undermined by the practice of 'social dumping'. It noted that the transition to alternative fuels and new technologies should not be used as an excuse for companies to further cut jobs, or slash pay, and working conditions. 

To achieve a truly 'Just Transition’, systemic issues of undervaluing, underpaying, and overworking maritime professionals must be addressed, the meeting heard.

Proposing the motion, Nautilus executive officer Sascha Meijer commented: 'Although the times may be changing our mission as a union remains the same. New technology must be an opportunity to improve the lives of seafarers. not an excuse for companies to further cut jobs or slash pay and conditions. Meanwhile, the problems that already exist in the maritime sector must not be forgotten.' 

Despite the best efforts of maritime trade unions worldwide, there had been a 'clear trend towards increasing exploitation of maritime professionals' especially since the pandemic and as a group they were 'underpaid, undervalued and all too often overlooked', said Ms Meijer.

'The scandalous actions of P&O Ferries so clearly demonstrated the way unscrupulous employers are always looking to undermine your jobs, your pay and conditions through the practice of social dumping. That example of fire and rehire is another example of these practices that we fight against.'

For some, the transition to new technologies, automation, and alternative fuels in the pursuit to lower emissions may seem like 'technical changes', but jobs pay, and conditions must also be protected and enhanced, said Ms Meijer.

Employers will certainly face increased costs to meet their obligations such as the need to develop new low and zero emission vessels and refit old vessels, but they will need to train seafarers to operate such vessels, she said. 'We must work to ensure that any costs extra costs are not passed on to hardworking maritime professionals.'

For those seafarers who cannot make the transition, there must be a safety net, added Ms Meijer, citing the Dutch campaign for a financial safety net for those who cannot make the transition, as exemplified by the Dutch 'Kolenfonds' (coal fund).

Seconding, Nautilus Council member Captain Jessica Tyson added: 'We should acknowledge that while P&O Ferries' actions were indeed shocking, they are not new. The audacity of the act was a shocker, and the inaction of our government was pitiful.

'The Union tried to rectify this in many ways. It's an ongoing issue. As we discuss the future of our industry and rightly discuss the technical aspects, we must not lose sight of the transition being an opportunity to address these injustices.'

Nautilus members Tony Minns and Mick Barrass also added their support for the motion.

Following a unanimous vote of members in support of the motion, the document has now become a resolution committing Nautilus to campaign for the following:

  • end 'social dumping' by encouraging national governments to work together to tackle the corrosive impact of flags of convenience
  •  sectoral collective bargaining rights to cover all sectors of the maritime industry
  • support jobs, increase pay and conditions in emerging sectors, particularly offshore renewables to ensure stronger collective bargaining rights
  • active recruitment of members in emerging sectors
  • campaign for bi-lateral agreements between neighbouring countries for fair standards in pay and conditions
  • lobby for a coherent maritime automation strategy that aims to protect jobs, supports new innovative technologies and addresses long working hours culture
  • campaign for the implementation and enforcement of the mandatory provisions of the MLC on making social connectivity for seafarers free of charge
  • continue to campaign against the criminalisation of seafarers
  • continue to campaign and negotiate for safe, healthy and sustainable employability of maritime professionals who stay on board while growing older
  • continue to campaign and negotiate for good pensions for maritime professionals
  • campaign for a financial safety net for those who cannot make the transition, as exemplified by the Dutch 'Kolenfonds' (coal fund)

This meeting also commended efforts on campaigning and collective bargaining for decent jobs in the emerging maritime subsectors of offshore renewable energy, such as wind, tidal and wave offshore and nearshore generation.

The full text of the motion is available in the My Nautilus members' area of the Nautilus International website.


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