UK case study

Chaplain helps secure victory for crew members not paid wages for several months

Note: Names have been omitted to protect the identity of crew members

A Mission to Seafarers chaplain has helped crew members to claim back wages not paid to them for several months in a row.

The chaplain stepped on board the vessel in a port in the UK and immediately felt as if something was amiss.

“The crew weren’t laughing or smiling, they weren’t waving happily as they usually would, instead they stood around listlessly drained of all energy and with downcast expressions”.

The chaplain soon found out that many of the crew members hadn’t been paid for several months, and that one crew member had been forced to overstay their contract for four months because they hadn’t received wages. One crew member had not been allowed to return home for his grandmother’s funeral.

The chaplain quickly actioned some initial steps that would help the crew members out of their situation. They provided SIM cards for the crew and gave them the contact information for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to complain about the conditions they were facing on board.

After a few days, some good news was reported: the entire crew had finally received their wages in full, the crew members who had overstayed their contracts were repatriated with a promise of good references, and the seafarer who had lost his grandmother was sent home at the company’s expense.

Problems with late pay on-board vessels can have devastating effects on the family of crew members, who can be reliant on wages sent by seafarers to live. Crew members often don’t turn to organisations to help them because of a lack of knowledge about basic rights, and because they have no means of contacting external help – due in part to unpaid wages.

The chaplain’s initial visit helped to change the culture on board the ship. When the ship returned to port six months later, the chaplain was able to see first-hand the changes that had taken place on board during that time.

The chaplain noted that:

“The seafarers were extremely grateful for the changes that had been sparked by his visit and were much happier in their jobs as a result.”

Crew were visibly happier and felt able to discuss issues openly with their company without fear of reprisals. The ITF, Border Force, and Coast guard all helped to resolve the issues which were highlighted by the chaplains initial welfare check.

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