New UK law to boost seafarer pay

March 30, 2023
Dover 1614927 edited

Thousands of seafarers regularly entering UK waters should enjoy better pay protections, as the government continues to boost rights and working conditions while preventing firms from using legal loopholes to pay low wages.

The Seafarers’ Wages Act received Royal Assent on 23 March 2023 and is now law.

As a key strand of the government’s 9-point plan for seafarers, the new law is designed to protect those working on vessels operating an international service from being paid less than the National Minimum Wage.

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 shamelessly sacked nearly 800 staff without notice or consultation. The UK government has acted swiftly to progress its 9-point plan in response to this disgraceful behaviour and remains committed to seafarers as a priority, both domestically and internationally.

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.'

However, Nautilus International has warned that the Act does not provide strong enough protections to prevent other companies from following the shameful example of P&O Ferries. The Union has welcomed the legislation, but said that further action is needed from government to fix the situation.

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 ferry workers 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 ferry workers 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.'

The 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.

Earlier this month, during the UK-France summit in Paris, the 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.

The government is also taking action against rogue employers using controversial ‘fire and rehire’ practices, consulting on plans for a Statutory Code of Practice.

Stay up to date with ISWAN's monthly email newsletter

We are grateful to our main funders for their continued support: