Supplementary Memorandum by RMT (FUS 17A)
THE FUTURE OF THE UK SHIPPING INDUSTRY
I will answer the questions in the order as
detailed in your letter:
1. What is your view of the comments made in paragraph
38 of the daughter document on Shipping, which imply that the
union's contributed to the decision of owners to flag out?
The union totally refutes this argument not
least because it is factually incorrect. Shipowners can crew UK
flagged ships with whichever nationality of crew they wish, there
are no restrictions requiring the employment of UK ratings or
officers on board.
It is probably true to say that in the past
there has been a perception that when changing flag you also change
crews. One of the prime reasons for UK shipowners flagging out
is to move to a register which does not necessarily enforce regulations
as well as the UK authorities. Of course another reason could
be that another register has a more advantageous fiscal regime.
For example if the UK Government do not make tax concessions in
the forthcoming budget it is likely that P&O Nedlloyd will
transfer their deep sea fleet to the Dutch register which has
the tonnage tax already in place.
It should also be noted that if a shipping company
chose to utilise a crew of lower paid foreign nationals they are
likely to be able to work their ships with a far more relaxed
view of the safety regulations.
2. Your memorandum refers to amendments to the
immigration rules. What do you have in mind, and what impact will
The Immigration regulations were introduced
on 1 August 1996 and stipulate that work permits are required
if seafarers are not nationals of EEC or EEA member states (EEA
member states are those in the EEC and Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein).
The voyages covered are those where a ferry requires a passenger
certificate and which operates between two UK ports or where the
vessel operates wholly or largely in UK waters. Work permits will
not be issued unless it could be shown that European nationals
could not do the job which in these instances is extremely unlikely.
The immigration regulations are in place to
protect domestic seafaring employment, but the current definition
as to what constitutes this is too narrow.
First of all it is imperative that the offshore
sector is included within the regulations. Currently employment
within the UK Continental Shelf is covered by all other UK legislation.
If the vessel is just operating from or based
at one UK port then workers on any vessel engaged in these activities
should be covered by the regulations. A short detour outside UK
territorial waters for example to an offshore installation, should
not be enough to avoid the UK regulations.
The regulations should also be amended so that
domestic freight vessels are included in the regulations. Domestic
freight vessels are at the moment needlessly excluded by the current
requirement for a passenger certificate. Vessels which operate
from just one UK port should also be included.
Vessels are currently excluded from the regulations
if a ferry carries less than 12 passengers and the union also
believes there is no good reason for this to continue. Often these
small vessels are carrying lorry drivers but they are still passengers.
The proposed changes outlined above are important
in so far as they simplify the regulations into a more easily
understandable and logical form.
3. What changes to the Race Relations Act 1976
do you wish to see? What impact will they have?
The simple change required is for the removal
of section 9 which exempts seafarers from the provisions of the
Act. When the 1968 Act was last reviewed it was recognised that
the principal of wage inequality was unacceptable in the long
The 1976 legislation outlawed two previous discriminatory
measures which allowed shipowners to refuse to employ persons
on board if this resulted in persons of different colour, race
or ethnic or national origin being compelled to share sleeping,
eating or sanitary accommodation. Shipowners could also discriminate
in such a way so as not to have passengers of different colour,
race or ethnic or national origin to share sleeping cabins.
The outlawing of the above left the remaining
provision which allows UK shipowners to engage foreign nationals
at lower rates and on different terms from UK domiciled seamen.
It was recognised that the principal of wage inequality was unacceptable
in the long term and a Working Group of industry representatives
was set up to study ways of overcoming the problem of wage inequalities.
The Working Group recommended that the practice be outlawed on
a staged basis over five years. An agreement was put in place
which would technically outlaw the practice but because co-operation
was not received from all Government's no movement of any substance
However the 1976 Act incorporated a specific
provision for the outlawing of the practice by cessation or amendment
of section 9 by Order and it is this which RMT are seeking.
RMT are not arguing for the replacement of other
nationals by UK seafarers on board UK vessels but for the outlawing
of discrimination. European seafarers, in particular Spanish and
Portuguese seafarers, are clearly being discriminated against.
As an illustration we can look at the offshore
sector and three Supply vessel companies Farstad Shipping Ltd,
Stirling Shipping Ltd and Tidewater Marine Ltd. All these companies
have an office in Scotland and their vessels operate from a UK
port servicing platforms and rigs in the UK Continental Shelf
and on occasion on the Norwegian, Dutch and Danish Continental
The above companies employ British officers
on all their vessels and a mixture of British and Portuguese ratings.
In certain cases the two nationalities are working side by side
and the difference in terms and conditions of employment means
that Portuguese seafarers are on 54 per cent less than the UK
There are also differences in safety legislation
applicable to the seafarers. British ratings are protected by
agreements and standards which limit working tours of duty in
the harsh North Sea conditions to an average of four weeks on
and four weeks off duty. Portuguese seafarers on board the same
ship will normally work 12 weeks on the vessel with a maximum
of one month off duty. It is believed that in an attempt to escape
the Fairness at work legislation for trade union recognition these
companies are in the process of reducing their compliment of British
ratings to less than 40 per cent.
The protection for the seafarers under the Employment
Protection (Consolidation) Acts and access to Tribunals are the
same for each seafarer.
The practice of one company employing seafarers
from different nationalities, and on different pay and conditions,
is also replicated in the Irish Sea where UK and Spanish ratings
are employed on different terms.
It has been argued that the seafarers are employed
under the EU Directive on Free Movement of Labour. This is true
but Article 48 of the Treaty of Rome states that the Free Movement
of Labour shall entail the abolition of discrimination based on
nationality between workers of member states in respect of employment,
remuneration and other conditions at work, and the right not to
be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality with regards
to the selection for employment, pay and other terms and conditions.
RMT believes that the equality contained within
the Treaty of Rome should be enforced by the removal of sections
eight and nine of the 1976 Race Relations Act RMT has the support
of the Portuguese and other European seafarers unions in the quest
for wage equality and opposition to social dumping.
I hope the above observations assist the Committee
in it's deliberations.
28 January 1999