Unions protest for decent wages for seafarers on Irish Ferries

Company portrays itself as Irish but doesn’t fly the Irish flag, Siptu says

Dean Gaffney with fellow SIPTU members as they gathered in Dublin Port to hold protest demanding decent wages for seafarers. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Dean Gaffney with fellow SIPTU members as they gathered in Dublin Port to hold protest demanding decent wages for seafarers. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Trade unions held a protest at Dublin Port on Friday, to highlight wages paid to seafarers by Irish Ferries.

Several unions took part in the demonstration, including Siptu, two British unions RMT and Nautilus, and the European Transport Workers’ Federation.

Siptu organiser Jerry Brennan said the protest was about raising awareness that Irish Ferries sail under the flag of Cyprus, rather than the Irish flag.

“They portray themselves as Irish, but they don’t fly the Irish flag, because if they did they would have to pay the Irish national minimum wage,” he said. “They fly under the flag of convenience of Cyprus.”

Irish Ferries de-registered from the Irish maritime register and opted to place the company on the Cypriot register in 2006, despite criticism from the Irish Government at the time.

The company also did not employ seafarers directly, but through a third party agency, Mr Brennan said.

The protest was to highlight “Irish Ferries continued determination to navigate around the Irish national minimum wage by using seafarers from less well-paid countries, who are employed by offshore agencies, as cheap labour,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Irish Ferries confirmed the company sail under the flag of Cyprus.

In relation to seafarers’ wages, the spokeswoman said “as is common practice in international maritime shipping and cruising, Irish Ferries uses the services of an expert provider to crew its ships, as it has done since 2006”.

All company activities were conducted in “strict compliance with the various applicable regulations,” she said.

Mr Brennan said working conditions for seafarers were “very precarious” with a widespread lack of certain workers’ rights across the industry.

“Seafarers themselves can’t protest, they have to keep their heads very low below the parapet,” Mr Brennan said.

The Siptu-led protest coincided with the docking of the Irish Ferries WB Yeats ship in Dublin Port. The demonstration was part of a European-wide trade union campaign to seek better rights and conditions for seafarers.