Nautilus International Wins First Minimum Wage Battle

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Maritime trade union Nautilus International has welcomed an agreement to ensure that foreign seafarers on freight ferries running to Orkney and Shetland will be paid at least the UK minimum wage.

Nautilus launched its Charter for Jobs at the UK branch conference in October 2016, a 10-point charter which calls on the government and industry to secure the future of the UK maritime sector, delivering decent work and training opportunities for the UK’s seafarers.

Point eight of the charter written up by the trade union, which represents 22,000 maritime professionals at sea and ashore, provides a commitment to lobby the government and industry to apply the National Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage and the Equality Act to all vessels engaged in UK waters.

In the first win for the charter, Nautilus has welcomed an arrangement drawn up by Scotland’s Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to cover the wages of the crews working on the Seatruck ferries Hellier and Hildasay, which operate the ‘lifeline’ services for Serco Northlink.

Nautilus has previously highlighted the inequalities within the maritime sector of seafarers being paid as little as £3.66 an hour.  This was denied by Seatruck, which claimed that more than half of the crew are paid the equivalent of the national minimum wage, or more, and those on the lowest rates were receiving around £4.60 per hour.

Seatruck argued that it operates in a ‘worldwide shipping market’ and paying the UK national minimum wage ­­- presently £7.20 per hour for those over 25 – would place it at a ‘serious disadvantage in relation to its competitors’.

Mr Yousaf said the new charter arrangements would come into force early next month, subject to finalising some financial and regulatory details: “I am very pleased to see an agreement in principle now in place to end this long-running issue.”

Nautilus’ National Ferry Officer Micky Smyth added: “This is an excellent result, and something we have been campaigning hard for.  It’s been a long time coming, but it is a welcome step in the right direction.”

“However, we must remember that this outrageous situation continues to exist on other ships running regular services in UK waters – undermining decent working conditions and employment opportunities for British seafarers.  We will continue to lobby the government who need to act quickly to end this unfair competition.  We call on ministers to implement the measures we have put forward in our Charter for Jobs, to safeguard the future of UK seafaring and stamp out unacceptable practices in the shipping industry.”

It is hoped that the introduction of the minimum wage will mitigate the impact that ‘sea strangulation’ has on the maritime industry.  Seen as the reliance on foreign shipping, Nautilus recently warned the House of Commons defence committee that ‘sea strangulation’ will see the UK run grave economic and strategic risks, especially considering the nation relies on shipping for 95% of our exports.

Nautilus’s analysis along with ship owners and the Merchant Navy found that for the equivalent of the price of just one mile of motorway, the UK could bridge the skills gap currently impacting the maritime sector.  At just £15m a year, the government could create thousands of much needed jobs in the maritime sector to protect the UK’s reputation as a global shipping centre.

Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson said: “The support we are seeking is a drop in the ocean.  It would amount to less than the cost of building a mile of motorway, however our analysis shows that it would be repaid many times over with the creation of thousands of quality jobs, at sea and ashore in the wider maritime cluster.”

SMarT and the call for the introduction of the National Minimum Wage is part of Nautilus International’s 10-Point Charter for Jobs.

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Source: Nautilus International

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