Industry must commit to strengthening the maritime workforce after the expiry of the OWWC
The government has finally decided to end the Offshore Wind Workers Concession (OWWC), which allowed foreign seafarers to work on offshore wind projects in UK territorial waters without visas or work permits.
This concession, which was introduced in 2017, expired on 30 April 2023 and will not be renewed. From now on all seafarers working on offshore wind farms in the UK sector will need to have the appropriate residency, visa, or work permit under UK law.
This is a victory for Nautilus International and for our members. We have been fighting for the end of this concession, which we believe has diluted local employment, disincentivised investment in coastal communities and undermined employment conditions. The concession was completely at odds with UK government policy enshrined in the industry-endorsed Maritime 2050 strategy.
The offshore wind sector is a key part of the UK’s green energy transition and has the potential to create thousands of jobs for local seafarers.
The end of the OWWC is an opportunity to ensure that the offshore wind sector is fair and sustainable for all workers involved. After six squandered years it is time for employers to work with us to develop a skilled and diverse workforce that can meet the demands of this growing sector. We should be working together to agree on fair pay, fair terms and conditions of employment, health and safety standards,and training and career development.
We believe that the offshore wind sector should commit to supporting the growth of our maritime skills base by offering apprenticeships, cadetships and other training opportunities for local seafarers, and to the upskilling of qualified seafarers on type-specific systems. This would provide a pipeline of talent for the future as underscored in Maritime 2050.
We look to the Netherlands, with its ambitious Offshore Wind Energy Road Map, as more coastal countries look to the sea to solve energy needs. We will be doing our utmost to ensure that the plans for offshore wind in the Netherlands result in quality local employment opportunities, investment in local communities, and the building of the lasting skills needed to move to net zero by 2050.
The offshore wind sector has a huge potential to contribute to our net zero ambitions and to create economic benefits for coastal communities. However, this potential can only be realised if the sector is built on a foundation of fair work and social justice. Nautilus is committed to making this happen and we stand ready to work with employers and governments to achieve this goal.
Our maritime professionals deserve a fair share of the offshore wind boom.
Together, we can make sure that this sector of the maritime industry is fit for the future and that our members are not left behind.
From the general secretary January February 2023
Welcome to 2023. We have a lot to look forward to this year. In October members will gather in Liverpool for the fourth General Meeting of Nautilus International, to review and renew our strategic priorities for the coming four-year cycle and to cement the future direction of the Union.
In 2022 I presented a mid-term report on our progress to the Council, and members can see my report by logging into My Nautilus.
Over the past four years we have been working hard to future proof the Union through our 2030 Vision. The goal of that vision is to achieve longterm financial sustainability. Part of that vision is to explore a digital future. To create an ever-greater digital experience for our members of the future.
The 2030 Vision has a strong emphasis on internationalism – an important focus given the global nature of our industry and our three branches, the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland. But it also resonates with our work with likeminded unions in the Nautilus Federation.
It provides a commitment to organise, campaign and deliver innovative services and benefits to members, and continue to provide high quality welfare services to seafarers and their dependants.
A union is only as solid as its members, so I am pleased to see a strong line-up of nominees for the Council elections. Becoming a member of the Council provides an opportunity for you to get involved and help build the future of Nautilus International.
Voting opens in the category requiring an election at the end of January so look out for your elections pack in the post (yes I know it's old fashioned postal ballots but that's the law in the UK so we have to do it).
P&O Ferries one year on
One year on from the scandal of P&O Ferries' unlawful sacking of 786 UK seafarers and it feels very much as if little has changed in labour relations in the UK. The government brought forward legislation to allow agency workers to be hired to break strikes. Further restrictions on the right to strike are now being promised to limit a trade union's ability to take industrial action – especially in the transport sector, with so called minimum service obligations being strongly mooted.
Since that fateful day on 17 March 2022, we have been working hard to ensure the UK government delivers on its nine point plan. The Seafarers' Wages Bill, currently progressing through the houses of parliament, seeks to prevent another P&O Ferries from ever happening again.
The bill needs to be strengthened, but importantly, it won't solve the underlying problem of social dumping in UK and European waters unless commensurate action is taken to deliver the promised bilateral minimum wage corridors with neighbouring countries. The most important of these is with France and we are working with the French seafarer unions to deliver that goal.
We have long been warning governments and the shipping industry of the need for a sustainable approach to maritime skills that serves national and European strategic interests. An approach that drives employment, investment in training, career opportunities and decent living and working conditions for European seafarers.
P&O Ferries and other rogue employers may think they got away with it, but there is still much to fight for and we intend to keep up the pressure.
From the general secretary March April 2023
In the lead up to the anniversary of P&O Ferries' mass-sacking on 17 March, I called on government to close the loopholes in employment legislation that allowed the company to abrogate its responsibilities, and to start working with unions rather than attacking them.
P&O Ferries exploited significant loopholes in UK legislation and exposed the serious imbalance between the rights of workers and those of corporations. It turbo charged a race to the bottom and undermined Maritime 2050, the government's flagship policy for the sector.
Despite widespread public anger, the government's response has not protected seafarers from summary dismissal, nor closed the loopholes. The much-vaunted Seafarers' Wages Bill, which will extend national minimum wage coverage to seafarers regularly entering UK ports, is not enough. The Seafarers' Welfare Charter is voluntary and weak, in fact leading UK ferry operators have told me it achieves absolutely nothing and will not protect UK seafarer employment.
Nautilus has taken a pragmatic view – the 9-point plan represents important steps in the right direction, but it cannot be the end of government intervention to support sustainable employment and career opportunities for our maritime professionals. The warning from the ferry industry should cause deep concern and I have urged the government to act without delay.
Government must deliver on its commitment to create minimum wage corridors between the UK and neighbouring countries notably France, Netherlands and Belgium. It must also ensure safe working patterns are part of these arrangements and commit to amending trade union legislation to stop companies from buying their way out of consulting us – and it must outlaw fire and rehire. Company directors who behave like those of P&O Ferries must be held accountable.
As the anniversary of that day approaches the government no doubt plans to laud their delivery of the 9-point plan. At the same time it is also pushing through legislation aimed at undermining the right to strike. Make no mistake this is an attack on your fundamental rights as maritime professionals.
Rather than attacking trade unions and their members the government should work with us. At Nautilus I can promise a willing partner if the aim is a genuine and mutual ambition to grow opportunities for sustainable employment in a strategically important industry and prevent another P&O Ferries scenario from ever happening again.
However, as I write this, I am deeply concerned for the future of Maritime 2050 and the job security of the key workers who underpin the entire sector and who make an immense contribution to our economy.
The next 12 months will prove to be a crucial time for the maritime industry. Does it want to grow and develop the skills base or does it want to go down the P&O Ferries route?