Memorandum by RMT (FUS 17)
1. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and
Transport Workers (RMT) represents approximately 60,000 transport
workers in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The RMT is the sole
union for seafaring ratings in the UK shipping industry, representing
over 6,000 deck, engine and catering personnel. Alongside the
Transport and General Workers Union the RMT also negotiates for
workers in the growing offshore oil and gas sector.
2. The RMT was formed as a result of a merger
between the National Union of Seamen (NUS) and the National Union
of Railwaymen in 1990. The RMT, and previously the NUS, took the
lead in campaigning for Government support for the Industry. The
culmination of this campaign, in which the officer's Union NUMAST
and the Chamber of Shipping have also played an important role,
has been the formation of the Government Task Force Working Group
to examine measures to revitalise the industry.
3. The RMT has been present in all Government
Working Group meetings and these have now lasted over one year.
The union welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence on the future
of the UK Shipping Industry. For the Committee's ease of reference
the RMT submission will address in order the terms of reference
as detailed in the Press Notice of 22 October 1998. The submission
by the RMT will primarily focus on the Union's area of expertise,
that being ratings.
4. There has been a dramatic decline in seafaring
employment for UK nationals. This will not be reversed unless
action is taken to at least reduce the cost differential between
employing UK ratings and those from lower labour cost countries
in other parts of the world, principally Eastern Europe and the
Far East. Almost every other Western European nation has taken
action to address this matter and it is now time for the British
Government to finally grasp the nettle. The urgency of this cannot
5. The Working Group has examined a number of
measures which could benefit British shipping companies. RMT recommends
that the following be implemented:
Waive employer's National Insurance
contributions for UK seafarers.
Expand the current Crew Relief Costs
The introduction of a tonnage based
tax regime lined to the training and employment of UK seafarers.
Amending the current Immigration
Rules to allow the increased employment of UK nationals.
Examine any initiatives that may
be taken within Europe which will strengthen UK seafarers employment
in the Coastal Trades.
The amendment of the 1976 Race Relations
Act so that Seafarers are no longer exempted from it's provisions.
The introduction of a comprehensive
training support package for both officers and ratings.
A recognition of the valuable role
that shipping has to play in the Government's Integrated Transport
Policy and a Government strategy for assistance in the ferry,
costal, offshore and deep-sea sectors of the industry.
6. The RMT has long campaigned for the alleviation
of the employer's National Insurance contributions. The National
Insurance contributions paid by employers represent between 8
per cent and 10 per cent of paybill costs for the typical UK seafarer.
Unfortunately the failure of the previous Government to implement
this measure resulted in shipowners transferring the contracts
of seafarers offshore. During 1997 the RMT was faced with a fait
accompli as 6,000 British seafarers had their contracts transferred
offshore by employers intent on achieving these savings. By transferring
the Contracts of Employment to an offshore company the employer
is no longer liable for the National Insurance payments but the
Government loses the contribution revenue from these UK seafarers
and it is therefore a false economy. In addition UK seafarers
have had their employment rights and certain social security benefits
placed in jeopardy. For example entitlement to the Job Seekers
Allowance can be lost if a seafarer spends most of his working
time outside UK territorial waters on a non-UK Flag ship. It is
vital that these seafarers are restored to contracts on-shore
through Government legislation to waive the employers National
Insurance contributions in order that all shipping companies can
achieve these vital savings.
7. Obviously training will be vital in providing
the net generation of UK seafarers. Later in this submission the
RMT examines the present number of UK seafarers and how their
employment and training may be developed. It is believed that
discussions should continue on ratings training but the RMT will
propose a series of measures that we believe should be implemented
as soon as possible.
OF UK SHIP
8. RMT believe that it is the benefits of UK
Ship registration and employment of UK nationals that, taken together,
give benefits for the wider UK economy. It is surely self evident
that if maritime knowledge is to be preserved in the UK economy,
and a maritime infrastructure retained, the skills that deliver
this cannot be allowed to wither away.
9. In recent years there has been a link between
the Flag of a ship and the likely employment of UK nationals.
In the 1970s it was virtually assumed that UK companies registered
in the United Kingdom but the proportion of the UK owned trading
fleet actually registered in the United Kingdom is now only 20
per cent following many shipping companies decisions to flag out
in the 1980s. The number of UK seafarers employed on these ships
has also sharply declined. Since 1981 the number of UK officers
employed on the UK owned fleet has declined by 70 per cent while
the number of ratings has fallen by 60 per cent. Seafaring officers
often serve on non-UK flag ships but for ratings this is not normally
a possibility and therefore the position of seafaring ratings
is even more precarious.
10. The decline of the UK registered Fleet has
been staggering. As recently as 1980 there were 1,200 ships of
500+ gross tonnage on the UK Register. By the start of this year
this figure had fallen to less than 240 and numbers are still
declining. Shipowners who flag their ships here will have a greater
propensity to benefit the wider UK economy through training and
employment opportunities for UK citizens. They will also be more
likely to purchase UK goods and services.
11. Where UK nationals are employed this provides
valuable career opportunities for British youngsters and in addition
there are substantial numbers of back up for shore based positions
in the United Kingdom. The total commercial maritime presence
in the United Kingdom is currently estimated to comprise 1,200
companies with over 112,000 employees. The largest sectors in
employment are shipping, shipbuilding and repair, marine equipment
manufacture, the ports and financial and other services.
12. However on a word of caution it should be
noted that whilst those ships flying the Red Ensign are of course
more likely to employ UK seafarers this is by no means a guarantee.
Indeed RMT have recently found that certain shipowners have retained
the Red Ensign whilst no longer employing UK seafaring ratings.
P&O Nedlloyd have stated that they propose to eventually replace
all UK ratings and they could therefore retain the UK Flag despite
the fact that only a small minority of their crew maybe UK nationals.
13. The Committee has asked about the specific
position of the Isle of Man Registry. Unlike the UK Register the
Isle of Man Register has in fact increased its tonnage in recent
years but sadly this has not been replicated in increased employment
for British ratings. Ninehundred and four UK national seafaring
ratings are employed on Isle of Man registered ships. This equates
to 30.08 per cent of the total number of ratings. The equivalent
figure in 1990 was 65.19 per cent. Until seafaring ratings are
employed in greater numbers the RMT will have continuing difficultly
in giving creditability to the Isle of Man register.
14. Waterborne transport is the most environmentally
friendly form of transport for carrying freight and this is one
of the most compelling arguments for supporting the Shipping Industry.
It is estimated that there is considerable capacity for tra
nsferring freight to the more environmentally friendly
forms of waterborne and rail transport. It is for this reason
that we believe Government should closely examine the potential
of the Coastal Shipping Industry to carry significantly more amounts
of freight. New developments in ship technology combined with
the increased speed of fast ferries mean that shipping can, in
many cases, offer a cheaper alternative to road transport.
15. A quick look at statistics provided in the
Department of Transport, the Environment and the Regions yearly
bulletin shows that shipping is far more energy efficient than
road transport and in respect of some emissions, for example carbon
monoxide, the most environmentally friendly form of transport
available. In total terms coastal bulk and container ships consume
about 50 per cent less fuel than HGVs per unit of cargo moved.
The 1993 Royal Commission report on the Environment recommended
that waterborne traffic's share of domestic freight should be
increased from 25 per cent to 30 per cent.
16. It has been estimated that initially 3.5
per cent of the United Kingdom's freight traffic could comfortably
be transferred to water with the potential for more when research
and appropriate action has been identified to assist the transfer
of freight between different modes. Ships can be re-routed to
ports nearer to the origin and destination of their loads, and
also through the potential for bulk and unit loads to shift to
coastal traffic. In the early 1990s the carriage of domestic freight
by waterborne transport declined to its lowest levels for a decade.
This followed a dramatic 30 per cent increase in road freight
between 1979 and 1991.
17. In totality waterborne traffic accounts
for just six per cent of goods lifted in the United Kingdom, whilst
81 per cent is accounted for by road transport. In other countries
with extensive coastlines or inland waterways, such as the United
States, France, Japan and the Netherlands, waterborne traffic
will account for between 20 to 25 per cent of freight volume.
18. The framework of the Integrated Transport
Policy, in so far as it relates to shipping, has now been published.
The above potential has been acknowledged by the paper and RMT
is pleased to note that Government intends to bring forward legislation
to extend the application of the freight grant regime to include
coastal and short sea shipping. Government have also stated that
they wish to make more use of inland waterways.
19. However RMT are concerned that the Governments'
plans for the Integrated Transport Policy have not been included
in the November 1998 Queens speech and legislation will therefore
not be forthcoming in the next year. The RMT sincerely hopes that
implementation of the proposed package of measures for the shipping
industry, if dependent on legislation, will not suffer the same
fate. The consequences of this will be extremely serious for the
preservation of the dwindling amount of maritime expertise in
the United Kingdom.
THE UK FLEET
20. The shipping industry is of far reaching
economic and strategic importance to the United Kingdom, and considering
its size it plays a disproportionately large role in both national
and international affairs. The seafaring labour force has always
been of modest size but a substantial investment has gone into
creating the skills of these seafarers and they continue to provide
the United Kingdom with substantial dividends. The total net output
from UK commercial activity is over £7.5 billion or 1.1 per
cent of Gross Domestic Product. Total turnover from these activities
is around £20 billion, with approximately £5 billion
coming directly from Merchant Shipping activities and a further
£4 billion from suppliers to the UK shipping industry.
21. There are a number of key reasons why the
United Kingdom would be foolish to rely on other countries to
provide our shipping and seafarers. The retention of a significant
UK flagged fleet with sufficient numbers of seafarers is vital
to the national interest. First and by no means least shipping
is vital for providing our trade in the world markets. Ninety-five
per cent of our external trade by weight and 25 per cent of our
domestic trade is carried by water. It is surely foolish to rely
solely on other nations for the carriage of our trade. Other nations
are all commercial competitors and certainly outside the European
Community they could at certain times be politically ill-disposed.
22. Business in the United Kingdom will benefit
from having different options for transporting goods between the
UK and overseas destinations as this will enable them to transport
goods at reasonable prices and remain competitive. A healthy UK
based shipping industry will obviously help facilitate this otherwise
additional costs and delays are likely through the necessity of
using indirect feeder services for the carriage of goods.
23. The shipping industry brings considerable
Balance of Payments earnings into the UK. Net payments exceed
£1 billion every year. However these earnings are declining
steadily, and a recent study commissioned by the Chamber indicated
that in real terms Balance of Payments earnings had declined by
37 per cent in the decade up to 1996. At the present time London
is still the world leader in maritime related services but this
supremacy will gradually erode should the availability of crucial
seafaring skills continue to dwindle. Seafarers play a crucial
role in filling skilled land based jobs. Later in this submission
we will refer to the jobs filled by ex-seafarers elsewhere in
24. One of the most compelling reasons for maintaining
significant numbers of seafarers is for the purpose of national
defence. The main function of the Merchant Fleet is to support
and supplement the Ministry of Defence in house assets and to
participate in reinforcement and re-supply operations. There will
be instances where ships can be chartered on the international
market but for many operational tasks it will be necessary to
have British ships and British crews. Certainly it would be counter
productive to have foreign nationals actively defending the realm
in a war situation.
25. If Britain was faced with another conflict
the size of the Falklands we would not be able to provide the
manpower and resources to meet this challenge. During the Gulf
Crisis the lack of suitable British registered tonnage forced
the Government to charter foreign vessels and this proved to be
quite a significant additional cost to the taxpayer. At the time
of the Gulf crisis it was reported in the Sunday Telegraph
that the Government were forced to charter in 127 foreign flag
vessels at at cost of £180 million. The same fleet in peacetime
would have cost £85 million.
26. There are also some important safety considerations
which the Committee should consider. If ships are on the UK register
they come under full UK regulatory control. It is obviously easier
to ensure safety standards on UK flagged ships. With foreign tonnage
the control of safety is limited to Port State Control. The Sea
Empress oil spillage gave us all a reminder of the danger to our
coastline of sub-standard foreign tonnage with mixed nationality
crews not trained to the same standards as would be expected in
the UK. Efforts to improve the safety of shipping internationally
through the International Maritime Organisation will of course
continue, and whilst steady improvements maybe made this will
inevitably be a slow process and ultimately the United Kingdom's
goal of completely safe shipping throughout the world will never
be fully realised.
27. Having a significant fleet does however
enable the UK to continue to have a strong voice internationally
when discussions take place in international forums such as the
IMO on matters affecting safety and pollution prevention. Earlier
in this document we referred to the transfers offshore of many
UK seafarers contracts of employment. This has given the RMT a
considerable problem as the transfer to offshore status have placed
in doubt the jurisdiction of Industrial Tribunals over seafarers
contacts of employment and can place in jeopardy certain social
security benefits. These difficulties are compounded if the ship
is non-UK Flag and the vessel spends most of its time outside
UK territorial waters. Even before the latest moves by shipping
companies to transfer contracts offshore seafarers employed on
this basis are denied many Employment Rights taken for granted
by shore based employees.
28. Seafaring deck, engine and catering ratings,
are all highly skilled and qualified and they are a resource to
not only their immediate industry but also the nation as a whole.
Unfortunately if present trends continue our maritime base will
be almost entirely extinct in 20 years time. Total employment
for both seafaring ratings and officers taken together is now
just 24,500 in the UK Trading Fleet. This figure does not include
officers who can, unlike ratings, often be employed on foreign
flag vessels. The estimated number of officers and cadets is in
total just over 18,000 and so the overall total for UK nationals
employed in the Shipping industry is just over 29,000. This is
the estimate given by the recent study of Professor McConville
and includes 10,860 ratings. In 1980 ratings figures alone were
30,000 whilst total seafaring employment was 64,600.
29. RMT believes that Professor McConville's
figure of 10,860 ratings is an over estimate of real numbers.
In the study produced by Professor McConville it is acknowledged
that figures of ratings are very much an estimate. This is because
the Chamber of Shipping have not produced a Fleet Manpower Inquiry
since 1996 when ratings numbers for the year ending 31 December
1995 were produced. RMT is seriously concerned that no proper
study of seafaring ratings has been done for three years and it
is only now with the culmination of the Government Working Group
on shipping that a further study has been commissioned. These
figures will give the position for the year ending 31 December
1998 to be produced in 1999 and RMT is convinced that the study
will show further falls in seafaring ratings employment.
30. In the last Fleet Manpower Inquiry 8,700
ratings were shown to be in the employment of Chamber of Shipping
companies. Even if more than 2,000 ratings were employed in non-Chamber
of Shipping companies there has undoubtedly, in the last three
years, been a fall in UK ratings employment with Chamber companies,
also some of those UK ratings seafarers identified by Professor
McConville may be employed only on a temporary basis. Certainly
RMT has in the last few years witnessed redundancies in the ferry
sector with both P&O and Stena Line. It was hoped that following
such a dramatic decline in numbers the bottom line had been reached.
Unfortunately clearly this is not the case and the future continues
to look even bleaker with further job losses now imminent at P&O
Nedlloyd, and in the event of abolition of Duty Free there will
inevitably be a further erosion of UK ratings employment in the
31. The possible departure of significant numbers
of P&O Nedlloyd workers would mean the end of any significant
presence for UK seafaring ratings in the commercial deep sea sector.
RMT has produced a separate document on training for UK ratings
which we would be happy for the Committee to have. In the RMT
paper the union has closely examined the last Fleet Manpower Inquiry
and the age profile for deck and engine ratings. This makes even
more depressing reading as the age profile of the more skilled
deck and engine ratings is very high. RMT found that 21 per cent
of deck ratings are aged 51 or over. Out of the 852 engine room
ratings 224, or 26 per cent, are in this age range. Companies
employing UK ratings have already expressed concern that skilled
workers in these grades are becoming increasingly hard to recruit
and if there is not a shortage of deck and engine ratings already
there will clearly be one in the very near future.
32. The number of UK ratings trained continues
to decline. Until very recently the National Sea Training College
was the entry point for all ratings. In 1987-88, 230 ratings were
trained at the college. Numbers were at this level for the next
few years and in 1990-91 322 ratings were trained. Next year numbers
dropped to 103 and since this time numbers have been under 100
every year. Sixty-two were trained in 1995-96 but only 20 in 1996-97
and 24 in 1997-98. Whilst up to 100 ratings may be trained in
other maritime colleges this will not replenish even the existing
number of UK ratings.
BOOST UK TRAINING
33. Unfortunately the Government's new training
scheme SMART has not, and will not, solve this problem. It is
welcome that unemployed ratings will now have the opportunity
to obtain training assistance through the scheme but SMART is
not expected to produce significant improvements to the numbers
trained. The scheme is essentially an amalgamation of the previous
GAFT and DOCS schemes for which Government appears unwilling to
produce additional funding. Previously ratings trained under the
GAFT scheme amounted to between 30 and 50 per annum.
34. During the discussions on ratings training
in the Government Task Force Working Group all parties recognised
that the expected shortage of ratings needed to be addressed.
A special ratings Task Force has been set up to consider what
specific initiatives can be taken to address the expected future
shortfall of UK ratings in the light of a further Fleet Manpower
Inquiry. The Working Group has considered ways of adding value
to UK ratings and also specific funding for their training. RMT
believe the following initiatives should be implemented alongside
other Government support measures for the industry:
Extending current training provisions
so that ratings have a structured training programme all the way
through to the most senior grade in their department. For example
junior deck ratings would receive training and certification as
an AB or engine room equivalent, or as Senior Steward. This could
take individuals up to five years.
Creating alternative career structures
to cadetships by encouraging more young ratings to take officer
conversion training. For example Glasgow College of Nautical Studies
have developed a scheme for training engine room ratings to Engineer
Targeting special training assistance
to enable suitable ratings to train for more skilled positions
on board, e.g., training for engine room ratings to operate computerised
pump rooms or to provide fitter skills in engine rooms.
Providing grants to shipping companies
to offset the cost of NVQ implementation with one off payments
for the cost of setting up training providers and further grants
to be made for each trainee.
35. It is worth noting that these initiatives
were specifically agreed by both maritime Trade Union's together
with the Chamber of Shipping in a paper submitted on a tripartite
basis to Government. RMT has been happy to work with other industry
participants in drawing up proposals to assist the industry and
the co-operation between employers has come about due to the crisis
facing the industry.
36. A number of other initiatives have also
been discussed in the Working Group. Among these have been the
establishment of various industry wide forums to assist in developing
and funding training. These have included the establishment of
a Maritime Training Trust and the setting up of a Training Levy.
However these industry wide initiatives, whilst certainly not
unwelcome, will not generate significant numbers of new UK ratings.
37. The creation of additional training berths
for young trainees is the most pressing task for the industry.
Even with a comprehensive training policy giving substantial assistance
of shipping companies will remain largely ineffective if shipping
companies are still unwilling to create the additional slots on
board for trainees due to the cost differential between employing
UK and foreign nationals from low cost labour countries. This
is why training assistance must be provided alongside other Government
38. The Committee should also note that when
UK ratings are employed the shipping company will often only be
operating to minimum Maritime Coastguard Agency crewing levels
and that is why it is important that training assistance covers
a substantial amount of the actual cost of the training. This
is why RMT believes that assistance should be given for ratings
training all the way through to the most senior position on board,
providing of course that the rating performs to sufficient requirements.
UK CAN LEARN
39. Almost every other Western European nation
has a package of support measures for their shipping industries.
The United Kingdom is therefore faced with not only low cost competition
employing cheap labour but also European Fleets who benefit from
more enlightened policies.
40. The measures adopted by other European countries
will, of course, not subsidise their Fleets so that the cost differential
entirely disappears but fiscal and taxation measures can create
significant incentives for registration with the host nation.
Many European countries refund income tax where shipping companies
employ seafarers from the home state or they may be in addition,
or as an alternative, waive the employer's National Insurance
contributions. Currently income tax is refunded to seafarers spending
more than 183 days outside UK territorial waters but this of course
does not apply to seafarers working around the UK Coast.
41. In respect of taxation measures the consensus
in the shipping industry now seems to be for the introduction
of a tonnage tax. This has largely come about due to the success
of this tax in the Netherlands. The tonnage tax is a shipping-specific
method of corporation tax whereby a notional profit is assumed
per tonne of shipping and corporation tax is then applied on this
basis. It gives shipowners far greater certainty on the amount
of tax they are to pay. The success of the Netherlands scheme
has led to the introduction of a similar tax in Norway and Greece.
In the Netherlands the tonnage tax has led to a significant increase
in the size of the Fleet. Between January and October 1996 50
new vessels were attracted to the Dutch Flag.
42. However RMT believe that the tonnage tax
should be linked to the training and employment of UK ratings
and officers. During the discussions on UK nationals jobs with
P&O Nedlloyd the company stated that the introduction of a
tonnage tax based on the Dutch model would not enhance the employability
of UK seafarers as their competitors could simply switch to the
UK Register and gain the tax without employing UK ratings and
officers. Whilst the tonnage tax may attract additional ships
on to the UK Register it is unlikely to lead to increased employment
for UK nationals without a clear linkage whereby employers are
obliged to employ UK seafaring officers and ratings.
43. It should be noted that when the Netherlands
Government introduced the tonnage tax Government already provided
tax refunds for Dutch nationals. In addition to the tonnage tax
the Norwegian Government has increased the number of their own
nationals employed on their ships through a 12 per cent refund
paid for the employment of Norwegians. Both Norway and Holland
have taken these steps following a long decline in the size of
their own registered Merchant Fleets and the number of their own
44. RMT also recommend that the UK Government
seeks to discuss further initiatives in the European Community
to strengthen the employment prospects of UK seafarers. The inclusion
of seafarers within the scope of the Posted Workers Directive
would be the most welcome. Also the European Community are presently
discussing the protection of European seafarers pay and conditions
on ferry trades between two European countries in so far as any
other workers employed on these routes would have to be on the
established pay and conditions negotiated by the host trade union.
45. The role and importance of on-shore shipping
services is significant in the United Kingdom. However, as previously
stated, these can only be protected through sustaining the maritime
skills which give rise to this knowledge. The most thorough study
of the requirements of the on-shore maritime sector and its requirement
for ex-seafarers was the 1996 report of Cardiff University commissioned
by the Chamber of Shipping, the Department of Transport and the
Marine Society. The report identified 17,000 shore based jobs
which employers would prefer to fill with ex-seafarers. For 70
per cent of these seafaring experience was considered to be essential.
46. Insurance and Ship Broking, to which the
terms of reference refer, are just two of the many shore based
activities dependent on seafaring knowledge. In the Marine Insurance
sector former seafarers are often employed in marine claims departments
in order that their technical knowledge can evaluate claims. In
Broking seafarers are most likely to be employed in sale and purchase
matters, particularly when the handover from one owner to another
takes place. There are however numerous other shore based activities
where ex-seafarers are not just likely to be employed but are
actually essential. For example the Port Industry will employ
significant numbers of ex-seafarers as harbour masters and pilots.
47. In this submission the RMT has sought to
highlight the dramatic decline in the number of seafarers employed
in the United Kingdom. The story of the decline of the UK Merchant
Fleet has been told before and the only difference is that with
each passing report the need for action becomes more acute. If
yet another opportunity is missed the danger is that the maritime
knowledge will have declined so far that the UK shipping companies
and other maritime interests will be forced to leave the UK. Even
if UK Shipping Companies who currently employ UK seafarers wish
to continue do so they will not have sufficient numbers of skilled
ratings still available.
48. The trend in recent years has been for the
wholesale replacement of UK ratings whilst officers have been
preserved, particularly on UK Flag ships. However there is no
economic reason why UK shipowners can employ only officers and
not ratings. It is undoubtedly true that both lower labour cost
seafaring ratings and officers can be obtained internationally
by shipowners. For years the shipboard environment very much replicated
the class structure of wider society and the Union is sure that
ratings have been seen as politically expendable in recent years.
With maritime skills fast disappearing it is time for more enlightened
attitudes for the sake of the wider industry.
49. Currently the maritime skills are still
there, albeit in drastically reduced numbers, but they are old
and need replacing. The Transport Committee should be aware that
this applies to deck and engine room ratings as well as seafaring
officers and their need for training is therefore an absolute
priority. The 1995 Fleet Manpower Inquiry demonstrated this and
the union is reluctant to see further discussions drag on over
the next few months when the need for action is obvious.
50. The RMT has proposed a series of action
points which we believe will address the crisis in the Industry.
It is important that a piecemeal approach is not adopted to the
UK Shipping Industry's problems. Measures to boost training will
only be effective if they are implemented alongside other Government
measures based along the lines of our European competitors. Other
developed nations recognise the importance of their maritime sectors
and for this reason alone the support measures will remain even
if the UK continues to stand alone in its laissez faire
approach. The maritime knowledge of the UK has significance way
beyond the number employed in the immediate industry.
51. The RMT, and before that the National Union
of Seamen, has come a long way in it's campaign for the Industry.
An industry wide consensus has been developed in recent years
and the Government Task Force Working Group is at this moment
about to publish its report. This is not before time as the Working
Group began its discussions towards the end of 1997. RMT sincerely
hope that action will be forthcoming in the very near future.