Monday, July 5, 2010

All Sectors Of British Shipping Will Be Affected By Equal Pay Move

Even More Vessels Will Flag Abroad if New Rules Come In
Shipping News Feature

UK – Major shipping groups across the entire spectrum of British flagged carriers have continued to make their position clear regarding proposals to insist on equal pay for staff; both for UK based employees and those who live and work overseas. All sectors from ferry operators through container lines and cruise companies have joined in protests against the move and several last week made plain their views in an open letter to the Daily Telegraph to protest against proposed possible changes.

Currently companies pay in line with wage levels in the employee’s home countries but they say that “as a result of an obscure regulation arising from the Equality Act, many major companies will have little choice but to re-register their ships away from Britain.” Signatories include major industry names including Maersk Line, P & O and Stena Line. The shipping lines say the regulations, if imposed, will ensure foreign competitors have lower costs making for unfair competition.

Transport Minister Mike Penning said:

"I am considering the issue of differential pay for seafarers in the light of the current position in EU law. I'm examining the evidence submitted by all sides of the industry and have invited further comments from all parties. Once I have considered carefully all the evidence and views I will report to Parliament on our proposed way forward."

P & O issued a statement saying:

"What is being proposed would compel UK-flag operators to pay UK rates to these seafarers, even though they do not incur their living costs here and may never even set foot on British soil."

In arguments that mirror comments often made by the British freight truck industry the overriding argument against the measures is that this policy is unfairly weighted against UK companies. World wide crews are habitually paid wages in line with their home countries own levels of remuneration and the shipping companies feel theirs is the only industry which would be subject to such regulation.

In an interview with the BBC, Mark Brownrigg, director general of the Chamber of Shipping, commented:

"I don't know of any other business sector which will be required to pay British wages to employees who are based and live abroad. It is absolutely standard practice throughout the international shipping industry for seafarers from different countries to be paid at different rates. What we are going to see is cost increases imposed on UK flag operators which are not imposed on anyone else. A number will be persuaded they cannot do business under the British flag meaning we could see up to 25% of our trading fleet move abroad - a huge and very negative development."