Solidarity needed to win basic rights and conditions
The Committee for a Workers’ International has received the appeal below from a section of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union in Britain. They are asking for international solidarity messages in support of an important campaign against the super-exploitation of foreign seafarers on ferries working out of ports in Southern England.
There will be demonstrations on 16 and 17 August in Portsmouth and Southampton and the organisers would like to be able to read out letters of support from around the world. Particularly welcome would be messages from India and Ukraine, where some of the most exploited workers come from and from other transport and maritime workers but support from all quarters is vitally needed.
Appeal from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union in Britain
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) has recently developed a campaign in opposition to Condor Ferries who operate two vessels out of Portsmouth paying Ukrainian seafarers £28.19 per day for a minimum of 12 hours. This is inclusive of overtime, ’captive’ time or any other bonus. The vessels operate between Portsmouth and Jersey / Guernsey. The seafarers receive no leave entitlement, no pension payment and work these hours every day for 3 months with no time off at weekends or bank holidays, everyday is a workday!
This ’business model’, as companies refer to it, is often termed ’social dumping’ or a race to the bottom. I would term it a global social cancer as British seafarers and many other seafarers around the world can no longer compete on a level platform, whilst shipping companies employ and exploit low cost labour the world over to maximise their profits.
The UK ferry sector works on a time/on time off basis with many working 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off due to the workload and excess hours compared to shore-based workers.
Condor Ferries are owned by an investment bank in Sydney, Australia with assets worth more than A$150 billion so it’s not like they can’t afford it!
The RMT has campaigned for years against social dumping but the time has come to show the local people and the trade union movement both nationally and internationally that we need a cure for this cancer. Direct action in a plentiful supply with support from all quarters is what will highlight and promote this disease of exploitation. Hopefully it will halt its progression throughout the global labour market whilst preserving a future for British seafarers to be able to work in British waters. We believe that regardless of nationality the ferry sector should be a time on / time off basis on proper wages, terms and conditions.
Other cruise companies operating out of Southampton, such as P&O, are just as bad if not worse! They canh be paying as little as 75p per hour to foreign nationals. Recently they dismissed 160 Indian workers due to them complaining whilst docked in America!
When these companies are challenged they say it’s ’political’ but when they carry out the practice, they say it is just ’business’.
We have taken encouragement from the messages of support already received from trade unionists and the working class movement and will continue to build the campaign. We have important demonstrations planned for Friday the 17 August at noon in Southampton and Saturday 18 of August at 07.45 in Portsmouth.
Contact me at that address for further details of the dispute and how you can help.
Council of Executive for shipping, RMT