UK seafarers ‘at risk’ due to North Sea employer practices

Union leaders, including the RMT's Jake Molloy, have called for the UK Coastguard Agency to ensure the safety of North Sea workers

Union leaders, including the RMT's Jake Molloy, have called for the UK Coastguard Agency to ensure the safety of North Sea workers

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The UK Coastguard Agency must respond to concerns that safety of UK seafarers is being compromised by North Sea operators employing foreign workers, a Holyrood committee has said.

The RMT union has described conditions on some “flag of convenience” vessels in UK waters as “purgatory”.

The Scottish Parliament’s economy, energy and tourism committee has also called on the Scottish Government to do more to assess the impact of the oil crisis on Scotland’s economy, in a report entitled Future Prospects for Oil and Gas in Scotland.

Unions told the committee that more UK seafarers are being excluded from the North Sea due to “employers using gaps in legislation to employ non-UK seafarers below the UK minimum wage”.

The STUC said these practices were not evident in other North Sea jurisdictions, and that “there is no doubt” that the health and safety of UK seafarers was being compromised.

Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union, said: “I know that the Filipino and Indonesian workers look upon us as the police arriving to save them from purgatory.

“The conditions on some of those ships are appalling (with) less competent, less able and less willing workers being exploited in order to exploit our natural resources.”

The International Transport Workers Federation defines a flag of convenience ship as one flying the flag of a country other than that of ownership, which can mean “very low wages, poor on-board conditions, inadequate food and clean drinking water and long periods of work without proper rest”.

Operators benefit from “minimal regulation, cheap registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom to employ cheap labour from the global labour market”.

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