UK and French governments act to protect seafarer’s rights and welfare

UK and French governments act to protect seafarer’s rights and welfare


Thousands of seafarers will be guaranteed fair wages, proper rest periods and suitable training thanks to a new Seafarers’ Charter launched by the UK government alongside a similar initiative by the French government during a visit by UK Maritime Minister Baroness Vere to Paris to meet her French counterpart Minister Hervé Berville.

Building on government action already taken, the charter – backed by DFDS Ferries, Condor Ferries, Brittany Ferries and Stena – is part of the government’s wider Nine-point plan to protect seafarers and boost employment protections, ensuring they’re paid and treated fairly – irrespective of flag or nationality.

This is at the heart of the UK’s response to P&O Ferries’ appalling decision to fire nearly 800 of its staff without consultation or notice last year.

Charlotte Vere, Baroness Vere of Norbiton

During the UK-France summit in Paris earlier this year, Transport Secretary Mark Harper met his French counterpart Clément Beaune, with both nations agreeing to continue working together to improve conditions for those working in the Channel.

The UK government has already delivered the Seafarers’ Wages Act, a key safeguard to protecting domestic seafarers in the UK. The law will make it illegal to not pay the thousands of seafarers regularly entering the UK at least the equivalent of the UK National Minimum Wage.

The Seafarers’ Charter requires employers to:

  • pay seafarers for overtime at a rate of a least 1.25 times the basic hourly rate
  • ensure adequate training and development is provided
  • provide employees with a full, indefinite contract
  • allow seafarers to receive social security benefits, including sickness benefits, family benefits, and medical care
  • adopt roster patterns considering fatigue, mental health and safety
  • provide adequate rest periods between shifts and rosters
  • carry out regular drug and alcohol testing

As well as the Seafarers’ Wages Act and the Charter, strong action has been taken against rogue employers using controversial practices which was revealed in the plans to create a statutory code of practice​.

The code will make it explicitly clear to employers that they must not use threats of dismissal to pressurise employees into accepting new terms, and they should have honest and open discussions with their employees and representatives.

Main Image: By Jim Linwood – Flickr: Condor 10 Boat In Weymouth Ferry Terminal – Dorset., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20360154

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