Northern Isles representatives call on UK Chamber of Shipping to stand up for seafarers’ rights


Northern Isles representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Liam McArthur MSP and Beatrice Wishart MSP, have today written to the Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, Sarah Treseder, calling on the shipping industry body to stand up for the working conditions of UK seafarers. The letter comes in response to last week’s mass sackings of UK workers by P&O Ferries which have led to fears of a wider attack on pay and conditions for seafarers.

In the letter, the isles representatives note the risk of wider reputational damage to UK shipping if P&O’s action is allowed to stand, and the important balance between supporting the rights of seafarers alongside the good of the industry as a whole.

Commenting on the letter, Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael said:

“The behaviour of P&O Ferries, in casting aside its seafaring workers at a stroke, demands a robust response from industry bodies. The Chamber of Shipping must make it clear that they do not support P&O’s unreasonable behaviour which risks critically undermining the reputation of UK shipping.

“We all want to see a successful UK shipping industry but that cannot be built on the destruction of working standards for UK seafarers. People across the country and in the isles deserve confidence that this is a viable and worthwhile career to pursue – the Chamber of Shipping must take action to rebuild that confidence.”

Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur said:

"The manner in which P&O carried out their mass sacking was reprehensible and has been met with widespread and justified condemnation.

"Apart from anything else, it demonstrated a complete disregard for the loyalty of these seafarers, their rights and of the impact this will have on their families at a time of a serious cost of living crisis.

"This has a bearing on the wider situation in the sector. P&O's appalling actions cannot be allowed to set a precedent for standards and the UK Chamber of Shipping should stand on the side of seafarers to call this out."

Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart said:

"P&O's disgraceful mass sacking shows this company’s heart is colder than the North Sea.

"For the many families impacted this will be a mighty blow. Scotland is entering a cost of living crisis and bosses should not be allowed to run roughshod over workers.

"Seafarers deserve the same respect, fair pay and fair treatment as other sectors. This cannot be allowed to become a blueprint for the industry and the UK Chamber of Shipping must call out these actions."

 

Full text of letter below:

We write regarding the actions by P&O Ferries last Thursday to make 800 seafaring staff redundant via pre-recorded video, and the wider implications to UK seafarers’ pay and conditions and for the reputation of the UK shipping industry.

This incident has showcased entirely unreasonable and unacceptable behaviour from a company that has been intrinsically linked to UK maritime transport for almost two centuries. We feel strongly that the response to the crisis from the UK Chamber of Shipping must be far more robust in support of the rights and working conditions of seafarers, both in support of its vital workers and for the good of the industry’s reputation.

The Northern Isles have a long and proud history of service in the Merchant Navy, a legacy which continues to this day. Indeed Arthur Anderson, one of the co-founders of P&O, was a proud Shetlander and MP for Orkney and Shetland. This legacy informs both our solidarity with seafarers throughout the United Kingdom, and our concern that such abuses of pay and working conditions could be replicated more widely.

We have fought long and hard over the years to defend basic standards of pay and treatment for seafarers – as well as to support the needs of the UK shipping industry more generally. We have supported both the proper application of minimum wage laws to crew in the UK and changes to tonnage tax to support UK-flagged companies. We believe in a strong and vibrant UK shipping and maritime industry.

If such unwarranted action by P&O is allowed to stand, however, then the conditions of UK seafarers risk being critically undermined. If UK Chamber of Shipping is seen to tacitly accept or even support these actions, then the reputation of UK shipping will be critically undermined as well.

Such an outcome would be to the detriment of all involved in UK maritime industries. We urge you to urgently reconsider the UK Chamber of Shipping’s approach to this issue in the coming days.


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