The National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers (Numast) has won a victory in its three-year battle for recognition rights on behalf of its members serving with the high-speed ferry operator Hoverspeed.
In a ruling delivered by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), the union's application for collective bargaining rights for certificated Merchant Navy officers working on Hoverspeed vessels sailing from UK ports has been upheld.
The company had consistently resisted Numast's requests for recognition - even though 76% of the proposed bargaining unit are members - and had claimed that it had already entered into an agreement with Italian unions.
Hoverspeed also told the CAC that it was not the employer - and that the officers were instead employed on an offshore arrangement with a Channel Islands company.
However, the CAC's judgment states that "it would be absurd to conclude that the workers in the proposed bargaining unit are either workers or employees of the Channel Islands company".
Numast assistant general secretary, Mark Dickinson, welcomed the ruling. "This is a huge and historic victory for us, and delivers critical safeguards for the employment rights of British seafarers," he said.
"The employer is Hoverspeed Limited for the purposes of the legislation on recognition; the Italian collective agreement is not in force for the officers employed on the company's Italian registered ferries; and Numast has the required membership and support for recognition within the workforce.
"We now look forward to some constructive dialogue with Hoverspeed in the expectation that we can reach agreement on the appropriate bargaining unit."
During its fight for rights, Numast launched an innovative campaign to get support from international trade union members, by urging them to e-mail Hoverspeed managing director Geoffrey Ede to call on the company to respect the wishes of its workforce.