Moves may be afoot to allow seafarers on UK ships access to employment tribunals on hours of work issues, according to an article published this autumn by . Currently, seafarers on sea-going ships are covered by the EC Seafarers’ Directive 1999/83 which has been implemented into British law by the Merchant Shipping (Hours of Work) Regulations SI 2002/2125. Provisions in these regulations require employers to ensure that seafarers have at least the specified minimum hours of rest but seafarers on UK ships are currently unable to enforce these rights before Employment Tribunals. The article states that Jim Fitzpatrick, shipping minister, has pledged to rectify this situation, and that draft regulations amending the Merchant Shipping (Hours of Work) Regulations will be published later this year. UK law also excludes seafarers on UK ships from the rights to claim for unlawful deduction of wages and to be supplied with a statement of their terms and conditions of employment.  

The article reports that the RMT union is currently lobbying the Government to change this so as to give such seafarers rights equivalent to other UK employees. There is likely to be a public consultation before any changes will be made. We will keep you posted on any developments. Meanwhile in Europe, the European Commission has put forward a proposal to improve working conditions for the estimated 300,000 maritime workers across the EU. The new proposed legislation in the form of a draft EU Directive, is based on an EU-level agreement reached in May 2008 by employers and trade unions in the sector and would incorporate internationally-agreed standards. The new standards will in particular improve the working conditions of seafarers in terms of employment agreements, hours of work, repatriation, careers and skill development, accommodation and recreation facilities, food and catering, health and safety protection and medical care, and complaint procedures.