Seafarers that regularly enter UK ports must be paid at least the equivalent of the UK national minimum wage according to new laws.
The legislation follows P&O Ferries’ decision to sack 800 workers and will ban ferries that don’t pay their workers the equivalent to minimum wage from docking at UK ports.
Announced in the Queen’s speech, the government will implement the changes in the next parliamentary session and will consult closely with the ports and maritime sector on the new laws.
In addition to The Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill on securing an equivalent to the UK national minimum wage for seafarers regularly entering UK ports, the government is continuing positive bilateral discussions with France, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Ireland and Denmark.
This is to ensure routes between the countries become ‘minimum wage corridors’, where seafarers on routes between either country must be paid at least the equivalent of the minimum wage.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We will stop at nothing to make sure seafarers in UK ports are being paid fairly. P&O Ferries’ disgraceful actions do not represent the principles of our world-leading maritime sector and changing the law on seafarer pay protection is a clear signal to everyone that we will not tolerate economic abuse of workers.
“We will protect all seafarers regularly sailing in and out of UK ports and ensure they are not priced out of a job. Ferry operators that regularly call at UK ports will face consequences if they do not pay their workers fairly.”
The consultation on the proposed measures will last four weeks. It will examine what sort of vessels could be included beyond ferries and what the enforcement measures will be. Options under consideration include surcharges, suspension of port access and fines.
The new laws will close a legal loophole between UK and international maritime law that P&O Ferries ruthlessly exploited.
In pursuit of a fairer deal for seafarers, this year the government will hold an international summit on seafarers’ rights to improve conditions for seafarers around the world.