Union claims victory as government agrees to apply work permits “consistently”


Nautilus International has welcomed UK government moves to crack down on the employment of foreign seafarers around the country’s coastline.

The union has been campaigning over the poor pay and conditions for many non-EEA seafarers working in UK waters and the resulting unfair and damaging competition this presents to the training and employment of British seafarers.

It has urged the government to ensure that work permit requirements are applied for all foreign seafarers working on ships trading between UK ports, irrespective of the vessel’s flag.

General secretary Mark Dickinson said: “This is a very welcome response and it is a victory for common sense. In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of foreign seafarers working within UK waters on pay rates well below the National Minimum Wage and on inferior conditions.

“Shipping is a highly globalised industry with a very international workforce, but these trends have raised fundamental legal and ethical questions about the employment and pay practices on vessels working around the UK coast. Ending the confusion over the application of the rules should provide some much-needed safeguards against unfair competition and exploitation in British waters and should therefore be some comfort to members working in the lifeline ferry services, such as those operated by Caledonian MacBrayne and Serco Ferries.”

Enforcing the Tier 2 requirements of the Points-Based System for work permit authorisation — ensuring that the jobs would either have to be on the UK occupational shortage list or that the employer/shipowner satisfies the labour market test by advertising the jobs at the local rate of pay for such jobs, before employing non-EEA nationals — should help to maintain seafaring standards in UK waters, Nautilus argues, and will prevent pay and conditions in the sector from being undermined.

Following protests by the union over a recent case in which a company employing non-EEA seafarers sought to bid for the contract to run ferry services between the Scottish mainland and the northern isles, Nautilus has now secured assurances from the Home Office that the work permit rules are being ‘consistently and robustly applied’.

The Home Office said it has determined that the work permit requirements can be applied to ships flying the flags of other EU member states and operating on island cabotage routes. Revised operational instructions clarifying the situation are likely to be issued later this year, Nautilus was told.

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