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British seafarers falling through Government's Covid-19 financial support net

'UK seafarers unable to work due to Covid-19 should be able to access the government financial support made available to other British workers' says Union's general secretary Mark Dickinson.

British seafarers falling through Government's Covid-19 financial support net
11 May 2020 - 22:25

Thousands of British seafarers are at risk of falling through gaps in the government's Covid-19 financial support schemes, Nautilus has warned.

Many are in danger of being left without any financial support as their employers fall outside the scope of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) either because they do not operate Pay as you Earn (PAYE) taxation or because they are based overseas.

Some seafarers are employed on ships registered outside the UK and some are employed on fixed term or voyage contracts and have little security of employment.

More than 11,000 seafarers would not appear to meet the conditions for support under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) even while paying into National Insurance (NI).

In a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Nautilus together with the RMT and the UK Chamber of Shipping, said the vast majority of the 21,000 UK merchant seafarers who are active at sea working in the commercial fleet are employed by offshore companies. This means they have special employment, tax and national insurance status.

Whilst the Government had amended its original specification for the CJRS to permit businesses based outside the UK to make claims, enabling a significant number of UK seafarers to be furloughed, Nautilus is now insisting that the government must seek ways to extend support to all UK seafarers.

'We consider it essential that the Government gives this matter its urgent attention. We believe it should devise a means of ensuring that UK seafarers unable to work due to Covid-19 can access government financial support made available to other British workers,' Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said.

In addition, Nautilus is highlighting that many seafarers would have expected to benefit from the Seafarers Earnings Deduction (SED). Introduced in its current form in 1991 it provides an essential incentive for seagoing careers and to shipping companies to employ British crew despite fierce international competition. Due to Covid-19 cuts to many shipping services and the impact of global travel restrictions, many seafarers are likely to now benefit from this special measure.

Nautilus members who are concerned or are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency, members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.

More Nautilus assistance and our coronavirus resource hub can be found on our Assistance page.

Mr Dickinson added: 'Seafarers that fall outside both the CJRS and the SEISS have no prospect of work, no source of income due the impact of the travel restrictions in place in many countries and may now also face large unbudgeted tax bills.'

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