Alistair Carmichael, MP for the Northern Isles, has today challenged the Government to do more to end chronic underpayment of seafarers working in the North Sea. Mr. Carmichael raised the issue last year and the then Minister commissioned a Legal Working Group to draft potential changes to the law which would deliver better pay and conditions to seafarers. The Working Group held its last meeting in December 2017, but the Government have not yet implemented the recommendations it gave.
Raising the issue in the House of Commons, Mr. Carmichael said:
“One thing which would bring young people into the industry is to ensure that decent wages are paid. Can I tell the Minister that the service recently commissioned by the Scottish Government, as an extra freight service going from Aberdeen to Lerwick, I am told by RMT officials, may be paying people as little as £3.78 per hour. Now that is something that the Scottish Government shouldn’t be allowing, but frankly it would not be an option if the Minister would implement the recommendations she received last year from the Legal Working Group without any further delay.”
Responding on behalf of the Government, the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Transport, Nusrat Ghani MP, said:
“I recently met with the RMT to discuss a number of issues, including the National Minimum Wage, which I am keen to work on with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to bring this forward. You are right that we need to ensure that people are paid appropriately, dealt with appropriately, and are working in comfortable circumstances, whether they are working at sea or onshore.”
Commenting after the exchange, Mr. Carmichael added:
“That anyone working in the UK can be paid as little as £3.78 is an absolute disgrace. If these RMT figures are accurate, then the SNP Government must look again at the contract they signed and ask themselves why they allowed these hardworking individuals to be so chronically underpaid.
“It was in November 2016 I managed to secure a Ministerial commitment to review the law around seafarers pay. It is ridiculous that now, almost two years later that no meaningful action has been taken.
“It is no wonder that many British seafarers simply can’t make a living in the industry when the Government allows wages to be so poor. The Government must implement the Legal Working Group’s recommendations to close this loophole, and to ensure Minimum Wage applies whether you work on land or on the sea.”