Minister steps in after union claims Northern Isles cargo ship workers paid £3.66 per hour
TRANSPORT minister Humza Yousaf has intervened in a bid to ensure workers on Northern Isles cargo ships are paid the minimum wage. Union chiefs revealed that some staff on freight vessels Hellier and Hildasay, operated by Seatruck and contracted to run the service by Serco Northlink, are receiving less than ?4 a hour. Transport union RMT have now threatened to take further action if the Scottish Government fails to deliver on its promise to intervene.
Transport Scotland said Yousaf will continue to press both Serco NorthLink and Seatruck, as well as the UK Government, in an attempt to resolve the situation. “Scottish ministers are strongly of the view that all workers employed on Scottish Government funded contracts – including sub-contracts – should be paid the national minimal wage, if not the living wage, and deem the current situation with Seatruck unacceptable,” a spokesman said. “The Minister for Transport and the Islands will ask Serco NorthLink Ferries to write to Seatruck a further time, repeating the offer to fund the gap to bring the pay of crew members up to the national minimum wage, and he urges the company to accept that offer.
The minister will also write to the UK Government to ask them to take action on this.” The RMT said workers on the publicly-funded Northern Isles freight vessels are being paid as low as ?3.66 per hour and claimed around 20 European staff on the Helliar and Hildasay have been paid below the UK national minimum wage for the last few years. Morecambe-based Seatruck said workers on the vessels did not need to be paid the minimum wage as the ships are not UK flagged and the staff involved are not UK residents.
Seatruck added that utilising the UK national minimum wage – ?7.20 per hour for over-25s – would place it at a “serious disadvantage in relation to its competitors”. The Scottish Government, which financially supports the Northern Isles ferry routes, is now asking Seatruck to accept an offer that will see Serco NorthLink contribute its own money to see wage levels rise. The RMT recently launched an online petition to encourage the Scottish Government to put pressure on Seatruck.
The union’s Gordon Martin said: “The most up-to-date figures we have is they are getting paid ?3.66 per hour. This is a Scottish Government contract. It’s totally unacceptable that these workers from Estonia are being paid way below the UK national minimum wage.”
Serco Northlink was awarded the six-year ?243m Northern Isles contract in 2012 and it operates three ferries and two cargo boats to the Northern Isles.
In a statement Seatruck said: “Under the current legislation the national minimum wage is not applicable to the crew of these vessels.
They are working on a non-UK flagged vessel, are not UK residents, do not pay tax or NI in the UK and start and finish their tours of duty in their home countries.”