SIPTU and RMT call for investigation after ITF reveals scandal of €2-an-hour pay in Irish Sea
RMT: November 24 2006
MARITIME UNION RMT has joined Irish sister union SIPTU in calling for an urgent investigation into all ferry and ro-ro vessels trading in the Irish Sea after an international Transport Workers’ Federation inspector today discovered workers on rates as low as €2 an hour.
ITF Inspector Ken Fleming boarded the ro-ro ferry Merchant Bravery this morning in the portof Dublin, at the invitation of ratings who said they had not been paid for more than four months.
The ITF has gathered evidence that 'double bookkeeping' was employed on the vessel, operated by Maersk subsidiary Norfolk Line between between Heysham and Dublin, and is acting to recover all the crews' wages and report its findings to the appropriate maritime authorities.
The 22 crewmembers on the Jamaican-flagged vessel are a mixture of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian seafarers.
The ITF found one able seaman who should have been earning around $3,200 a month, in accordance with his first contract of employment, was only being paid around $1,000 for 365-plus hours a month - or just over €2 an hour - on a second contract of employment.
Another rating who should have been earning $1,984 on one contract of was being paid only $850 on his second contract.
"This is what we call 'double book-keeping'," said ITF inspector Ken Fleming.
"It appears that the hours of work regulations are being abused on a daily basis and there is also a question mark over false certificates of competency. Further investigation by the ITF will follow."
He added that the ITF was considering the lawful arrest of the vessel on behalf of the crew members to reclaim wages in accordance with their first contract.
SIPTU and RMT, who have been campaigning jointly against 'social dumping' in the Irish Sea, are demanding the fullest investigation by the Irish and UK maritime authorities on all ferry and ro-ro vessels trading in the Irish sea.
"This is the shocking reality of social dumping, with crews employed in UK waters being paid at rates well below the minimum wage, and that is why we need urgent action to ensure that shipowners can no longer evade minimum employment standards," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.
"This is another example of the detrimental impact of unfettered global capital on weak and vulnerable people," said SIPTU general president Jack O'Connor, who also called for immediate action in accordance with international law to rectify the injustice and ensure that at the very least a minimum threshold of decency is applied in the case of these seafarers.
Notes to editors: RMT is working alongside maritime unions in Ireland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands to end 'social dumping' in which unionised crews are replaced with super-exploited, unorganised overseas labour employed on rates often below minimum-wage levels and working dangerously long hours.
In Britain the union is calling for an end to the exemption of shipowners from the Race Relations Act that allows them to continue discriminating with impunity.
RMT is also campaigning for the Tonnage Tax, under which shipowners receive millions in tax relief simply for setting up an operational base in the UK, to be made conditional on providing training and jobs for UK ratings.