New law strengthens wage protection for seafarers in UK waters Ship’s crew

In a major win for the thousands of seafarers who regularly traverse British waters, the UK Government has passed the Seafarers’ Pay Act, which significantly improves pay protection and working conditions for workers in the maritime sector.

The new law follows P&O Ferries’ controversial dismissal last year of 800 UK-based ferry crew members who were replaced by foreign workers.

The law received royal assent on March 23, 2023 and is now in force.

The legislation aims to protect seafarers working on ships engaged in international trade by ensuring they are paid no less than the national minimum wage. The move is part of the UK government’s ongoing effort to address unfair practices and loopholes in the law that have allowed companies to exploit low-wage workers.

The Seafarers’ Pay Act is a key component of the government’s 9-point plan for seafarers, which aims to overhaul and improve working conditions in response to the abrupt layoff of nearly 800 P&O Ferries employees in 2022 – an incident that was widely publicized politicians and trade unions were condemned. P&O Ferries is owned by Dubai-based DP World.

Under the new law, ship operators will have to prove they are paying their seafarers wages that match the national minimum wage – which will be the case next month increase up to £10.42 per hour depending on age. Authorities now have the power to penalize operators who do not comply with the regulations and deny access to the port to those who consistently fail to meet these requirements.

The national minimum wage is comparable to the International Labor Organization (ILO) global minimum wage for seafarers of $658 per month (as of 1 January 2023). That wage, agreed last year, will increase to $666 in 2024 and $673 in 2025. The previous minimum range of $641 has applied since 2018. Minimum standards for basic wages are set out in the ILO Maritime Labor Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) , known as the Seafarers’ Bill of Rights.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper praised the new law, stating: “Our maritime sector is a world leader. That’s because of the thousands of hard-working seafarers who work tirelessly to keep supply chains running and passengers safely transported across our waters. These workers deserve a fair wage and I am therefore pleased that our Seafarers’ Wages Act will become law, helping to improve wages and protect seafarers from exploitation.”

The UK Government is also working with its close European neighbors to ensure the welfare and fair pay of seafarers and is considering establishing minimum wage corridors in their respective jurisdictions. At a recent summit between Britain and France in Paris, both nations pledged to continue working together to improve working conditions for people working in the Canal and to protect them from exploitation.

The government is also cracking down on rogue employers who use controversial “fire and reinstatement” tactics and is deliberating on plans to introduce a statutory code of conduct.

These latest measures signal the UK Government’s commitment to prioritizing the rights and welfare of seafarers at home and abroad.

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