Nautilus International, the union for maritime professionals, has warned that the recently passed UK Seafarers’ Wages Act will not stop another P&O Ferries from reoccurring.
The Seafarers’ Wages Act received UK royal assent and became law on 23rd March, 2023. The act forms part of the government’s nine-point plan in response to P&O Ferries mass-sacking of 786 seafarers in March, 2022.
Nautilus welcomed the legislation that aims to ensure maritime professionals working on board vessels that are regularly docking in UK ports are paid at least the UK minimum wage.
However, it warned that the legislation is not enough to stop another P&O Ferries from happening again and has called on the UK Government to implement a mandatory seafarers’ charter backed up by bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries.
Nautilus’ Executive Officer, Martyn Gray, said: “Nautilus International welcomes the passing of the Seafarers’ Wages Act. We support the aim of this legislation to ensure workers on vessels that are regularly docking in UK ports are paid at least the UK national minimum wage.
“However, the Seafarers’ Wages Act will not, by itself, force a change to P&O Ferries’ exploitative crewing model or stop another P&O Ferries from happening again.
“Government must do more to end the race to the bottom in terms and conditions for maritime professionals exacerbated by P&O Ferries. This must start with implementing a mandatory seafarers charter, backed up by bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries, that ensures wages and safe roster patterns reflective of local standards, not international minimums,” he said.
The law change will also require authorities to charge operators of vessels who do not provide evidence they’re paying their seafarers the equivalent to National Minimum Wage and to refuse harbour access to those who continue to fail to comply.
Last year, P&O Ferries sacked nearly 800 staff without notice or consultation. In response, the UK Government acted swiftly to progress its nine-point plan in response and said it remained committed to seafarers as a priority, both domestically and internationally.
UK Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “Our maritime sector is world-leading. That’s down to the thousands of hardworking seafarers working tirelessly to maintain supply chains and transport passengers safely across our waters.
“These workers deserve a fair wage and I’m therefore delighted to see our Seafarers’ Wages Act become law, helping improve pay and protect seafarers from exploitation.
“The (UK) government continues to engage with the UK’s near European neighbours to protect seafarers’ welfare and pay, and explore the creation of minimum wage equivalent corridors in our respective territorial waters,” he said.
Early last month, during the UK/France summit in Paris, the UK Transport Secretary met his French counterpart, Clément Beaune, with both nations pledging to continue working together to improve conditions for those working in the Channel and to protect them from exploitation.