Nautilus has been working hard to ensure members are treated fairly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Successes have included persuading the UK government to designate seafarers as key workers and ensuring the furlough scheme is applied to as many maritime professionals as possible. But there are still some stubborn outstanding issues, and action is now needed from large numbers of individual members to get the government's attention.
A survey of UK members found that 11,000 seafarers have been unable to access government financial support schemes during the pandemic.
And there's another crisis looming for seafarers who have been unable to join their vessels elsewhere in the world due to pandemic travel restrictions. Many of these workers are likely to be hit with an unusually large tax bill because their forced home stay has meant they have not spent enough days outside the UK to qualify for Seafarers Earnings Deduction.
To solve these problems, Nautilus is asking members to put pressure on the UK government by writing to their MPs in such numbers that they cannot be ignored.
The Union has drafted a letter to help with this, providing a core of key information and an opportunity to add individual experiences.
Nautilus member Mike Ridehalgh is a veteran activist, and he has been urging fellow members to join his letter-writing effort to MPs and other influential figures. In the July 2020 Nautilus Telegraph, he wrote this rallying cry:
'It seems that in official circles seafarers are not for consideration, with the attitude that "if we ignore them, they will go away". We will not go away!
'These people operate on the earache principle: if we don't give them earache, they don't respond. So give them lots of earache!
'I will keep plugging away, but it will be your efforts that will alter the course of treating seafarers like lepers, so whilst I appeal to others to listen and act, I appeal to you folks to listen and write.'
In official circles, seafarers are not given consideration. If we don't give them earache, they don't respond. So give them lots of earache! Nautilus member Mike Ridehalgh
Draft letter to MPs
Please copy, paste, customise and send
Dear [your MP's name]
UK seafarers' employment status – Seafarers Earnings Deduction
The UK government designated UK seafarers as keyworkers during the current Covid-19 pandemic to recognise the vital role they play in providing the UK with 90% of everything, including the essential medical supplies, PPE and supermarket provisions needed during the Covid-19 lockdown.
However, it has been estimated that as many as 11,000 UK seafarers were unable to work during lockdown. For some this was due to international travel restrictions preventing them from joining their ship, and for others, especially those in the cruise and ferry sectors it was because their companies were unable to continue operating.
Research conducted by Nautilus International, the trade union for maritime professionals, highlighted that these seafarers were unable to access government financial support during the lockdown, primarily because of their employment status as many of their employers do not operate UK PAYE. They also did not qualify for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
Due to Covid-19 measures, many UK seafarers will also miss out on securing qualifying days for their Seafarers' Earning Deductions (SED). This section of UK tax legislation, introduced to ensure the UK always had sufficient seafarers for the nation's needs, grants seafarers who have spent 183 days or more outside the UK the right to claim 100% tax exemption on their foreign earnings.
This could lead to many thousands of UK seafarers facing a triple whammy. They are unable to return to work, unable to access government financial support and facing an unforeseen and unbudgeted tax bill in April next year.
As the MP for my constituency, will you please add your support to the joint request made by Nautilus International, the RMT and the UK Chamber of Shipping, calling on the Chancellor to offer support to our seafarers?
[You may wish to add your personal experiences here, especially if you are a seafarer affected by the issues raised, or a family member.]
[Your name, address and email]