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Maritime workers to press the government to take action against exploitation

MARITIME workers will be pressing the government to take action against the exploitation of seafarers today.

Seafarers who belong to the RMT union will be protesting for decent wages, jobs and conditions in Portsmouth.

Condor Ferries, which operates the lifeline ferry services between Portsmouth, Poole and the Channel Islands, is facing the renewal of its contract this year.

However, the RMT has accused it of casually employing foreign seafarers who live on the vessels on below-minimum wage rates to undercut British wages.

The company, which is owned by the Australian bank Macquarie, has also not released accurate documents to prove it has been compliant with British employment laws since 2015.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash condemned these vessels as “ships of shame,” adding that British workers should not have to compete with “poverty pay.”

This latest demonstration follows a seafarers’ rally outside the Department for Transport (DfT) yesterday after the government refused to commit to ensuring that companies who gain contracts for Brexit ferry services will guarantee their staff the minimum wage, union recognition and legal protection under the Equality Act.

In a House of Commons debate on Thursday Labour MP Karl Turner pointed out that, due to wage undercutting from migrant workers, British seafarers account for a mere 15 per cent of all seafarer ratings in the British shipping industry.

He then asked the government if it was willing to employ British seafarers on the ferry contracts, since £103 million of British taxpayers’ money will be spent on the services.

However maritime minister Nusrat Ghani refused to confirm this and said that the treatment of seafarers is “up to the company.”

Mr Cash said: “These are UK government ferry contracts and the government would be quite within its rights to insist they are protected by UK employment law and crewed with UK seafarers.

“That is an absolute scandal and it is clear that the government is only interested in a bosses’ Brexit.

“Companies will trouser millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash while they crew their ships with exploited seafarers from other countries.”

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