Carmichael Challenges Government for action on seafarers' pay

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has demanded Government action over the lack of enforcement action against companies which pay their staff less than the minimum wage. The practice sees people paid as little as £3.66 an hour according to the transport union, RMT. On lines which are funded by the Scottish Government Mr. Carmichael described the practice as “outrageous.”

Speaking in the Chamber, Alistair Carmichael said:

I want to bring to the House’s attention the situation regarding two ferries that run lifeline freight services to my constituency from Aberdeen. The Helliar and the Hildasay are operated by Seatruck Ferries, but they are on contract to Serco, which operates the Scottish Government-funded lifeline ferry service. The RMT tells me that in 2014, when it last had sight of the contracts, some 20 ratings on the two ferries were being paid £3.66 an hour. The ferries’ journeys start in Aberdeen and finish in either Orkney or Shetland in the Northern Isles, but the company is able to pay that rate because it is deemed to be operating wholly outside UK waters. It beggars belief. It is wrong not only for the ratings, most of whom are probably Estonian nationals, but for UK seafarers whose jobs and livelihoods are being undercut by such employment practices. It is outrageous that a taxpayer-funded service is being operated in a way that undermines the opportunities of British seafarers to get working conditions and employment rates to which they would otherwise be entitled.”

Commenting afterwards Mr. Carmichael said:

“There is simply no excuse for this. These are routes, funded by the Scottish Governemnt, working exclusively in Scottish waters, and yet, they are not being paid the National Minimum Wage, let alone the living wage. And from what I hear the Helliar and the Hildasay are just the tip of the iceberg. We have heard recently about the Malaviya Seven and 20, which staff are paid less than the minimum wage.

“These scandalous actions need to be stopped, and I will continue raising it with the Government until I see pay improve for those seafarers who deserve to be paid much more.”