Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Two Major Protests Aimed at RoRo Freight and Passenger Ferry Crew Terms of Employment

Ramsgate Controversy as Government Under Fire Adds to Channel Island Row
Shipping News Feature
UK – It seems the controversy surrounding the award to Brittany Ferries, DFDS and, most noticeably Seaborne Freight, of contracts with a value exceeding £107 million by the government for extra RoRo truck services post Brexit should the negotiations end in stalemate, has engendered even more strife for embattled Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. This just at a time when another row over the pay for lifeline freight and passenger ferry crew working in UK waters reaches the next stage.

Our story last week which revealed the chequered history of logistics associated companies headed up by Seaborne directors, and the mystery of at least one who, despite being named as a CEO does not appear on the Companies House registers, has produced a huge response, particularly on Twitter. Now maritime union RMT are to hold a protest at the Department for Transport offices on Friday 11 January at 10:00 to make three demands.

The RMT wants all the ferries granted UK government contracts to be fully crewed up with UK ratings. Unlikely given the nationalities of two of them (France and Denmark). Secondly it wants full recognition of UK trade unions, and finally all UK employment laws to be fully complied with. RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said:

“There has been a barrage of publicity around the Government’s Brexit ferry contracts and the union has written to both Chris Grayling, who is in control of the arrangements, and the companies involved demanding basic assurances on UK ratings jobs, union recognition and full compliance with UK employment laws.

“RMT has no intention of allowing any backsliding, or any stitch-ups of UK seafarers, and that is why we are making our position public with the protest at the Department for Transport on Friday morning. We will not allow the scandal of the Ships of Shame in British waters, where poverty pay below the minimum wage and shocking working conditions are endemic, to roll over to these contracts.”

Meanwhile, the campaign by the same maritime union against Condor Ferries which operates freight and passenger ferry services between Portsmouth and Poole and the Channel Islands continues unabated. Condor services are contracted by the Jersey and Guernsey governments and the RMT will be holding a further protest on Saturday 12 January 2019 between 07:00 and 09:00 at Portsmouth International Port, George Byng Way, Portsmouth PO2 8SP.

The protest will take place under the banner of RMT’s SOS 2020 campaign which it says is calling out companies profiting from the exploitation of seafarers, including Condor Ferries owners, the Australian bank Macquarie which takes a management fee under the current contract with the Governments of Jersey and Guernsey. Mick Cash made a vociferous attack on the company, saying:

“UK and Channel Island seafarers cannot and should not have to compete with poverty pay rates on these ships of shame. Scandalously low pay in the shipping industry has driven a fall in UK Ratings of over 60% since the 1980s. Yet there are 87,000 ratings jobs in the UK shipping industry, with demand forecast to grow in the coming years. RMT is fighting to enable domestic seafarers to compete for these jobs by enforcing Minimum Wage legislation and ending nationality based pay discrimination.

“In addition to disgracefully low wages, 81% of Channel Islanders in 2016 were dissatisfied with Condor Ferries, the result of rising fares, safety incidents, service cancellations, delayed freight supplies and exploitative employment practices. This is no way to run a lifeline ferry service for the public, Government and businesses of the Channel Islands, and we look forward to debating these matters with them.”

The Handy Shipping Guide did ask Condor Ferries for a comment two days ago but answer came there none.

Photo: A Condor fast ferry under way. We’d have used a picture of a Seaborne Freight ship sailing majestically into Ramsgate Harbour from Ostend - only they don’t have any.