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The Seafarers' Wages Bill

Earlier this year, P&O sparked widespread outrage by dismissing almost 800 staff members before employing agency staff on a lower wage. It was widely reported that a large portion of the agency staff would be made up of foreign workers, with the RMT Union noting that some were to be paid well below the UK’s minimum wage.

The Government proposed a 9 step plan to ensure that Seafarers working within UK waters would be better protected and the resulting Seafarers’ Wages Bill has now been through its Second Reading in the House of Lords.

The Bill in its current format ensures that seafarers engaged on vessels which use UK ports at least 120 times per year are paid the UK minimum wage for the work carried out in UK waters. The UK minimum wage will be payable regardless of the vessel’s flag or the seafarer’s nationality.

The Bill will allow harbour authorities to levy a surcharge on any vessel operator which fails to declare that it has complied with the UK minimum wage. They will also have the power to refuse access to the harbour if this surcharge is not paid.

The Bill makes clear that it will not apply to fishing vessels but to those carrying persons or goods between a port outside of the UK and one in the UK. Feeling was expressed in the Lords that the Bill may not go far enough but the Government feel that it strikes the right balance to ensure wage protection for seafarers in UK waters.

The Bill is due to go to Committee stage on 15th September so watch this space!

For more information, please contact our Employment Team or call 01224 632464.

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