Home HR Ireland-UK unions join forces over employment on Irish Sea ferries

Ireland-UK unions join forces over employment on Irish Sea ferries

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British and Irish seafaring unions have called for an urgent meeting with Irish Ferries to discuss concerns over the pay and conditions of the crew that will work on a new ‘super-ferry’ due to come into service in the autumn.

SIPTU, RMT and Nautilus trade unions have written to senior management at the company to seek assurances on the rates of pay for the crew of the Cyprus-registered W.B. Yeats, which is expected to enter service on the Dublin-Holyhead route in September.

The three unions have asked Irish Ferries to confirm that rates of pay for seafarers on the new vessel will be compliant with National Minimum Wage legislation in Ireland and the UK.

SIPTU, RMT and Nautilus are united in campaigning for more jobs and training for Irish-based and UK-based seafarers on passenger and freight ferry services in the Irish Sea,’ the letter states.

‘It is our shared position that employers in the Irish Sea who either directly employ or use agencies to crew vessels with seafarers on rates of pay below the respective National Minimum Wages (NMW) in Ireland (€9.55 per hour) and the UK (£7.83 per hour) are undermining employment law and preventing local seafarers from competing for work. 

‘Such crewing practices also represent unfair competition for employers in the Irish Sea who do pay seafarers rates agreed through the collective bargaining process with recognised trade unions and who invest in seafarer (ratings and cadets) training programmes,’ the letter adds.

  1.       The SIPTU, RMT and Nautilus trade unions organise seafarers and port workers on Irish Sea passenger ferry services between Ireland and the UK.
  2.       Irish Ferries does not recognise trade unions on their passenger ferries working between Dublin-Holyhead and Rosslare-Pembroke.
  3.       Basic pay for seafarer Ratings on a number of Irish Sea operators have consistently been found to fall below the respective National Minimum Wages in the Republic of Ireland and the UK (see anonymized tabled below).
  4.       According to the Irish Continental Group’s accounts, since 2012, annual operating profits at Irish Ferries’ parent company have increased 235% to €89m and dividends worth €125m were paid to private shareholders.
  5.       The €144m W.B. Yeats is the first of two new vessels Irish Ferries have ordered from the Flensburger shipyard, Germany. The 50,000 tonne W.B. Yeats is registered in Cyprus and has capacity for 1,885 passengers and crew, as well as 165 lorries.
  6.       W.B. Yeats was originally intended for the Dublin-Cherbourg route from July but persistent mechanical problems with the MV Ulysses on the Dublin-Holyhead route since April has seen the new ship delayed and re-routed to Dublin-Holyhead, with thousands of passenger and vehicle bookings cancelled as a result.

Examples of Seafarer pay rates below the Irish and UK NMWs on Irish Sea routes (Source: ITF Inspections and individual contracts of employment 2014-2017)

Basic pay (Hourly) Flag of vessels Seafarer
£3.78 p.h. Cyprus Polish
£3.78 p.h. Cyprus Polish
£3.78 p.h. Isle of Man Polish
$3.47 p.h. Netherlands Filipino
$3.47 p.h. Bermuda Filipino
£1.75 p.h. Bahamas Polish, Latvian, Portuguese
€5.36 p.h. Bahamas Spanish
£5.55 p.h. Cyprus, Bahamas & Italy Estonian & Polish

National Minimum Wage rate Republic of Ireland 2014-18 (18 years+)

Year Hourly Increase from previous year
2018 €9.55 3.2%
2017 €9.25 1%
2016 €9.15 5.7%
2015 €8.65 0%
2014 €8.65 0%

National Minimum Wage rate UK 2014-18

Year Hourly Increase from previous year
2018 £7.83 4.4%
2017 £7.50 4.1%
2016 £7.20** 7.4%
2015 £6.70* 3%
2014 £6.50* 3%

*21 years and above
**Introduction of higher rate for workers aged 25+ (National Living Wage), April 2016

[1] Seafarers are all Ratings Grades. The lowest paid tend to be working as Stewards or On-Board Services.

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