Trade unions across Europe are launching a campaign today to demand an end to what they call "appallingly low pay, unacceptable working conditions and denial of basic trade-union rights" on ferries operating between European countries.
Maritime unions from the UK, Ireland, France, The Netherlands and Belgium have joined forces to call for minimum standards of pay and conditions and for UN conventions on human rights to be imposed on ferry operators to prevent them exploiting overseas crews.
RMT national secretary, Steve Todd, said some ferry companies were engaging in "social dumping" and racing with rivals to find the "lowest common denominator" in employment practices.
The companies can legally do this as their ships are registered outside the EU and do not have to comply with laws such the UK's National Minimum Wage even if they operate in European waters.
RMT general secretary, Bob Crow, said: "We believe it is morally indefensible for employers to take advantage of workers like this, and I am delighted that trade unionists from so many countries are united in calling for minimum standards that apply to shore-based workers to be imposed on ferry operators."