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Some Ukrainian ferry staff on £2.46 an hour, says RMT union

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A UNION is due to protest in Portsmouth against the ‘poverty wages’ they allege Condor is paying some of its staff.

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According to the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, some of the ferry company’s Ukrainian employees are being paid just £2.46 an hour and working 12-hour shifts as part of three-month contracts.

Condor said that the RMT’s claims only applied to five per cent of its 570 staff working on the Commodore Goodwill and Commodore Clipper ships and that the employees often chose to return to work for Condor rather than taking up jobs elsewhere.

The company has also challenged the RMT’s comments and claims that the salary only represents a small part of its employees’ overall reward package, as they also receive en suite accommodation, food, laundry facilities and uniform costs.

The company says it pays the travel costs of its workers when they travel to and from their home countries and provides life assurance, medical cover and a bonus scheme.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said UK and Channel Island mariners were being put off from taking on jobs with the company because of the low wages.

‘UK and Channel Island seafarers cannot, and should not have to, compete with pay rates as low as £2.46 per hour.

‘With wages like that it is no wonder that between 1980 and 2016 the number of UK ratings [sailors] fell by over 60 per cent. There are 87,000 ratings’ jobs on ferries and other merchant vessels working from UK ports, with a vast majority paid below the UK national minimum wage. RMT is fighting to change this.’

The union is also asking the public and Channel Island politicians to get behind their calls to make Condor pay their staff the minimum living wage of £9.45 an hour and register the company’s UK to Channel Island ships in Britain rather than in the Bahamas.

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However, Condor’s executive director Fran Collins has labelled the union’s comments as ‘absurd’ and says that her company complies fully with marine employment regulations.

She said: ‘Condor Ferries is a proud and responsible employer and totally refutes the RMT’s absurd statements made in relation to our treatment of staff.

‘We fully comply with, and indeed exceed, domestic and international employment regulations covering the pay, terms and conditions and protection of all staff, which includes full compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention 2006.’

She also said that Condor provided training for crew at all levels – from cabin crew to master and chief engineer – along with financial and other support for career development, which includes cadetships and ratings’ training.

‘Commercial shipping is a multi-national industry, creating opportunities for citizens of many countries to work internationally. Condor’s recruitment of non-EU staff is therefore not uncommon and in line with other UK ferry firms,’ she added.

Earlier this month, two Labour party backbenchers tabled an early day motion calling on the UK government to support the RMT’s calls to eradicate low pay for seafarers. However, the motion has since been withdrawn.

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