Government introduces bill to stop low pay among seafarers amid the P&O scandal as Liverpool Seafarers Centre urges local communities to support those at sea. Tony McDonough reports
Seafarers sailing into British ports will be paid the minimum UK wage as the Government introduces a new bill in the wake of P&O Ferries scandal.
It comes as Liverpool Seafarers Centre (LSC) urges communities across Merseyside to show their support for seafarers. Already hit by the COVID pandemic seafarers face new turmoil due to the war in Ukraine.
In March, P&O sacked 800 workers without warning and attempted to replace them with lower-paid staff. The move caused outrage across politics and industry. Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke expressed his disgust at the move.
In response the Government published a nine-point plan to avoid a repeat of the scandal.
As part of that plan it has introduced the Seafarers’ Wages Bill in the House of Lords. This enables port authorities to deny access to services calling regularly at UK ports which do not pay workers equivalent rate to the UK National Minimum Wage. This closes a legal loophole which was exploited by P&O Ferries.
However, speaking at the Maritime Exchange conference in Liverpool, the general secretary of seafarers union Nautilus UK said ministers needed to go further. Mark Dickinson claimed asking port operators to enforce the rule was like “asking them to mark their own homework”.
LSC, a charity which supports 50,000 seafarers each year visiting Merseyside ports, is urging people to show their support. It issued its call ahead of Sea Sunday on July 10. This recognises the role seafarers play in our daily lives and raises funds for the missions supporting them.
The theme this year is Calming the storm at home, in port, and at sea. LSC chief executive John Wilson says that it is more important than ever to remember the challenges facing seafarers and their families, and the vital role they play.
In its appeal, the ecumenical charity said it was vital, now more than ever, to support those working on ships. LSC’s centres are continuing to see Ukrainian seafarers impacted by events in their native country on a daily basis.
John said: “It remains a desperately sad situation. Some have lost their homes, their families have fled Ukraine and they cannot go home. Things may look bleak for them at the moment, but we are here for them and we are trying to listen and help them as much as we can.”
The ongoing pandemic also continues to impact the world’s 1.89m seafarers. They are still impacted by COVID restrictions. John added: “Those restrictions can be really strict. We are seeing shipping lines stopping shore leave for crews.
“Perhaps a single crew member hasn’t been fully vaccinated and if that is the case none of the crew are allowed ashore. The effect is harsh on crews, who benefit hugely from time ashore of the vessel.
You can donate to the Liverpool Seafarers Centre at www.paypal.com/paypalme/liverpoolseafarers