TUC Congress delegates voted unanimously in favour of a motion tabled by Nautilus and the RMT union stressing the need for effective enforcement of standards governing safety and working conditions in the shipping and offshore industries.
Seconding the motion, Nautilus assistant general secretary Ronnie Cunningham said seafarers make modern life possible by transporting food, fuel and essential products around the world – yet, despite their vital role, far too many continue to suffer appalling levels of exploitation, excessive working hours and substandard working conditions.
'Last year alone, the International Transport Workers' Federation and its global maritime affiliates, such as Nautilus and the RMT, recovered almost US$38m in unpaid wages for seafarers around the world,' he pointed out. 'These are staggering statistics, adding up to shameful treatment of thousands of crew members who have been cheated out of their wages.'
Mr Cunningham urged the TUC to support Nautilus campaigns to combat the extraordinary levels of exploitation, social dumping and unfair competition that members are exposed to. 'We want to keep pressure on governments to continuously improve the pioneering Maritime Labour Convention – which was introduced in 2016 as an effective global minimum standard to underpin improvements in the lives of seafarers,' he said. 'To do that in the UK, we need to ensure there is the necessary staffing, resources and political commitment to police and enforce the requirements of the Convention – and to head off political pressure to dilute UK maritime regulatory standards to compete with flags of convenience.'
RMT delegate Sean Hoyle pointed out that it is 30 years since the Piper Alpha disaster, in which 167 people died in the North Sea. No one was ever held liable for the disaster, even though the inquiry found design problems and inadequate maintenance, and safety standards in the sector are now under immense pressure as a result of cost-cutting, he warned.
Cliff Bowen, from the Unite union, said offshore workers are presently fighting the introduction of three-on/three-off rotas, which are linked to tiredness, stress and mental health issues. 'Unity of purpose and collective strength is vital for those who help to keep our lights on and our trade moving,' he added.