Wednesday, August 7, 2019

More Union Protests as Reflagging and Selling UK Ships Means Loss of British Jobs

Further Demonstrations to Take Place This Month
Shipping News Feature
UK – There will be more protests this month by the maritime union RMT against crewing with non-union labour aboard ferry services from the UK. The protests will be organised under the banner of RMT's SOS 2020 campaign which requires equal rights in employment, equality and immigration law for UK seafarers, statutory training targets for UK ratings, protection for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's Merchant Seafarers from privatisation, and legislation in the style of the US 'Jones Act'.

This last is the most controversial as we have pointed out many times. Vessels trading on domestic routes in the US are subject to the Merchant Marine legislation, enacted in the days after the First World War to ensure naval security. Ships must be US built, US owned, US crewed and worked on at US facilities.

Objectors across the Atlantic point out that the Act pushes domestic waterborne trade to unreasonably high price levels, however supporters say it retains an independent security layer and, despite years of debate and acrimony, it retains government support.

This latest rash of industrial action was kicked off when P&O Ferries disposed of the RoRo ferry European Endeavour which sailed the Irish Sea route and substituted a foreign flagged vessel. The RMT says the existing crew were replaced with cheaper replacements whilst the British officers were promised other positions in the company fleet. RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said:

“It is a scandal that after announcing the sale by P&O of the European Endeavour our members were not offered redeployment on one of the company’s other Irish Sea vessels when suitable positions exist. Instead, P&O are filling ratings positions on the Irish Sea with agency crew, citing that their ‘business model’ needs to be maintained.

“It is shameful that shipping companies like P&O choose a business model that replaces long-standing seafarers with ‘low-cost’ workers. With this attitude from a major shipping company it is no surprise that of 101,000 Ratings and Officers that make our shipping industry tick, under 20% of these jobs are held by British seafarers, most of whom will retire in the next decade.”

The European Endeavour was sold by P&O in April to Finnish ferry group Eckerö Line and her place taken by the Mistral, chartered from Finland. The move followed the announcement in January 2019 that the P&O Ferries UK fleet would be reflagged from Dover, UK to Limassol, Cyprus ‘as a result of Brexit’. A month later the company confirmed it had been repurchased for circa £322 million by its former owner, DP World.

The forthcoming demonstrations are scheduled to take place on Monday 19th August:

  • 13:30 P&O - Gladstone Dock, Bootle, Liverpool L20 1BG.
  • 16:00 Seatruck Ferries, Brocklebank Dock, Port of Liverpool, L20 1DB (this Demo will target the 18:00 sailing).
Photo: The European Endeavour now renamed MS Finbo Cargo.