RMT union protests over cargo ship wages

A protest organized by UK union RMT has been held in Aberdeen, claiming that some workers on Northern Isles cargo ships are being paid about half the minimum wage, Press Association reports. RMT members protested at Aberdeen Harbour under the banner “Aberdeen – Port of Shame” and then demonstrated outside the city offices of Scottish National Party politicians. Workers on the Northern Isles Seatruck vessels are being paid £3.66 an hour said the RMT. The UK statutory minimum wage for over-25s is £7.20 an hour.

Seatruck runs freight vessels Helliar and Hildasay under contract by Serco Northlink. ” Seatruck said in a statement that no workers were paid less than £4.60 per hour. “Under current legislation, the UK national minimum wage (NMW) is not applicable to crews of the Helliar and Hildasay as they are not deemed to be ‘ordinarily working in the UK’. “They start and finish their tours of duty in their home countries, they are working on non-UK-flagged vessels, they are not resident in the UK and they do not pay tax or national insurance in the UK. “The seafarers are Estonian or Polish nationals earning multiple times the NMW for their countries of residence. ”

Seatruck said that both the UK Government and the UK Chamber of Shipping had confirmed that the NMW does not apply in this instance.

Seatruck rejected an offer from Serco/Northlink to make the pay up to the minimum wage, which would be reimbursed by Transport Scotland, as Seatruck’s “fleet-wide pay structure would be distorted by acceptance”.

Seatruck has offered to sell the two vessels to allow the new operator to introduce new rates of pay but the Scottish Government has opposed this solution, with a spokesperson saying that “the Scottish Government is deeply disappointed that Seatruck has once again rejected Serco’s offer to pay their staff the minimum wage and backdate this”.