Maritime union hails victory in campaign to protect British seafarers' jobs13 May 2020
Maritime professionals' union, Nautilus International, has hailed a victory in its Charter for Jobs campaign, over government plans to extend the national minimum wage to all seafarers in UK waters.
The move represents a significant step towards eradicating social dumping, the practice whereby employers exploit a disparity in wages between countries to use cheap labour, resulting in a race to the bottom.
The amendment to the existing National Minimum Wage (Offshore Employment) Order, to remove the exclusion to seafarers, was laid in Parliament on 6 May and is a draft Affirmative Order, subject to Privy Council clearance.
If the amendment is adopted, it will mean that Nautilus will have succeeded in achieving one the most important points on its Charter for Jobs – to apply the National Minimum Wage (and the National Living Wage) to all vessels engaged in UK waters.
Nautilus has called for minimum conditions to apply to all seafarers in UK waters for almost 20 years, as part of a lengthy campaign to secure the support of the Chamber of Shipping for a collective approach for a solution to the problem of the exploitation of foreign seafarers.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson applauded the move, saying: 'This is a major triumph for our lobbying of government and should be welcomed, as it puts a floor in the wages of all seafarers in UK waters, including on port voyages on the UK continental shelf, and will help protect UK seafarer jobs. It completes a pledge set out in Maritime 2050.
'This development will maximise the employment of British seafarers in the UK, especially in coastal shipping; passenger and freight ferry services; offshore windfarms; offshore oil and gas exploration and decommissioning, representing a real victory for the industry.'
In 2016, after the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union, Nautilus launched a 10-point Charter for Jobs, an 'SOS' to the government, which set out 10 key objectives to secure the future of the maritime sector post-Brexit and ensure the government delivers for UK seafarers.
The Union continued to raise these issues with successive administrations until a legal working group was set up in 2017 to investigate the possibility of extending the minimum wage to all vessels in UK waters. That working group, which included the maritime unions and the Chamber of Shipping, eventually proposed a solution that led to the government's maritime strategy – Maritime 2050 – including a firm commitment to extend the UK National Minimum Wage to all seafarers in UK waters.