UK And France Announce Seafarers’ Charter

The UK and France have launched a new Seafarers’ Charter to establish fairer working conditions for the sea-going employees of maritime shipping companies. The measure was prompted as a response to the P&O Ferries scandal in 2022, when 800 staff were sacked without prior notice or a consultation period.

The new charter has been backed by major ferry operators between the two countries, such as DFDS Ferries, Condor Ferries, and Brittany Ferries. These employers have agreed to pay seafarers a fair wage, ensure that adequate training and development is provided, put in place a full and formal job contract, and allow access to a full range of benefits.

When staffing rosters are drawn up, consideration should be given to proper rest periods between shifts to help avoid stress and fatigue. Regular drug and alcohol testing will be carried out to maintain health and safety standards, and employers will be banned from using threats of dismissal to browbeat staff into accepting new terms.

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere said: “Fair pay and protection against unlawful discrimination are the basic rights of any employee. Our seafarers deserve nothing less. I therefore expect companies across the maritime sector to sign up to this Charter, letting their staff know they’re serious about protecting their rights and welfare.”

She added: “[…]  In Paris, alongside Minister Berville, we strengthen our commitment to protect those working in the Channel and we’ll continue collaborating with our international partners on this vital issue.”

Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries CEO, said: “When it comes to seafarers’ wages and working conditions, we believe that all ferry companies should aim for the highest bar and not participate in a race to the bottom.”

He added: “That’s why this charter is such an important step forward for us. We never forget the importance of seafarers and are proud to be part of the fight to protect their rights, on both sides of the Channel. We also intend to shout about this from the rooftops, urging freight and passenger customers to make the right decision when choosing a carrier.”

The UK government has already established the Seafarers’ Wages Act, which ensures that all seafarers entering UK waters are paid at least the equivalent of the UK minimum wage.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This agreement recognises the threat that unlawful operators like P&O Ferries continue to represent to seafarers across the UK and Europe. We need mandatory employment standards to grow jobs for our ratings and officers on short sea shipping routes from all UK ports, including to France.”

He added: “Now it’s over to P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries, crewing agents and other shipowners to confirm whether they will or will not comply with the Seafarers Charter, including the two-weeks-on two-weeks-off roster pattern.”

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