Maritime professionals’ trade union Nautilus International voiced its “shock and anger” to a decision by North Sea shipping company Farstad to sack 45 UK officers and ratings and replace them with cheap workers from Asia.
“The North Sea sector has suffered around 65,000 jobs losses since the oil price crashed last year and the announcement that these British seafarer jobs are being moved to Asian workers is a further blow to the sector,” the union said.
The union claims to have seen emails in which Farstad admits that it is making the crew — who all work on ships operating in British waters — redundant and intends to replace them with Asian seafarers in an attempt to ‘lower costs’ and avoid having to put any vessels into lay-up. The email added that the company was ‘sorry about the situation but we are trying to keep most of the vessels active’.
Nautilus senior national secretary Garry Elliott said that the decision by Farstad, where the union has a trade union recognition agreement, was a shock to members who had been trying to work with the company in recent months and find ways to cut costs without losing jobs.
“It is disgusting that a company who had previously agreed that British seafarers would be employed on British terms and conditions can ignore rules about redundancy and wipe out their UK staff without a second thought.
“UK law states that a company can only make a job redundant, not a person, but these jobs clearly still exist as Farstad has admitted it will be recruiting Asian workers to replace them. What Farstad is doing is nothing more than creating fake redundancy as an excuse to sack workers and get cheaper crewing costs.”
Elliott added that the situation was sadly far from a one-off as a number of North Sea companies had attempted to exploit UK rules and replace British seafarers with cheaper foreign seafarers.
“Luckily we have managed to work with other companies who have considered this option and found better ways to make cost savings whilst keeping valuable British seafarer jobs,”’ he added.
The union quoted a Nautilus member who was away working for Farstad in the North Sea when he received the company email advising him of the redundancies, as saying that the British crew were already struggling to compete with other Europeans workers who have accepted less pay because they have a cheaper cost of living and don’t have to pay UK tax.
“Now we are going to have to compete for UK jobs with people who come from Asia. Surely it is time for the UK government to take the situation in the North Sea seriously and start protecting jobs?” he added.
The union has called on Farstad to hold emergency talks to find ways around making the redundancies and is also considering legal action.