Transport union’s protest against ‘poverty pay’ on Streamline’s Northern Isles freight boat

Freight boat Daroja heading into stormy seas back in 2010. Photo: Ian Leask

TRANSPORT union the RMT says it will hold a protest in Aberdeen next week against what it says is “poverty pay” on Streamline Shipping’s Northern Isles cargo vessel MV Daroja.

The union claims pay on the Cyprus-flagged ship, which links Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland, was as low as £2.56 per hour in January.


Streamline managing director Gareth Crichton said the company does not employ seafarers as it operates the vessel under a charter and he added that it is “simply wrong to suggest somehow we have profiteered”.

Union members will hold a demonstration on Friday 21 April at Aberdeen Harbour as efforts are being made to encourage the Scottish and UK governments to intervene.

The Daroja is leased to Streamline by Germany-based shipping investment fund Marjesco Schiffsbeteiligungs GmbH, which owns the ship.

The RMT also criticised the vessel’s safety record, highlighting its collision near Peterhead in 2015 which caused the small fuel supply tanker Erin Wood to almost capsize.

Streamline's Gareth Crichton defended the company against accusations of "poverty pay", pointing out it does not employ seafarers.

It also flagged up the Daroja’s detainment in Aberdeen by the MCA in November after a number of defects were found, including issues with its international safety management code and incorrect records of seafarers’ daily hours of work and rest.

In a similar situation, staff on NorthLink’s two publicly-funded Northern Isles freight vessels have been paid at least the UK minimum wage since March after a new “bareboat” agreement was signed off between subcontractor Seatruck and the Scottish Government.

The vessels were also not UK flagged and the staff in question were said to be from abroad.

The RMT, which claimed “shareholders are pocketing millions in dividends whilst migrant workers are mercilessly exploited”, hope that the authorities will similarly strike a deal to ensure that staff are paid fairly on the Daroja.


It added that during 2008 and 2014 Streamline’s subsidiary company Shetland Line 1984 Ltd received just over £3 million in grant money from the Scottish Government towards running its freight service under a public service obligation.

“Poverty pay on Streamline Shipping’s MV Daroja is a disgrace,” RMT general secretary Mick Cash added.

“We call on the Scottish Government to take action, as it did on Seatruck, where it has been agreed that they will pay at least the national minimum wage on the NIFS/Seatruck contract. 

“Only a nationalised Northern Isles ferry service can meet the needs of local communities and the seafarers that serve them.”

The RMT has outlined four issues it wants the Scottish and UK governments to intervene on, with enforcing national minimum wage legislation and requiring Streamline to comply with work permit regulations at the top of the agenda.

It also wants to see the freight capacity increased on the Northern Isles ferry service contract, as well as a review be held into the Daroja’s safety record.

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said the situation of seafarers working in and around the isalnds was “worse than most people realise”.

“The Streamline response here, that they do not employ crew directly so it is not their problem, shows how easy it is for companies to dodge their obligations under minimum wage law,” the MP said.


“The resolution of the problem with the NorthLink freight boats operated by Seatruck only worked for crew on these boats and has made no difference for the others. Clearly what is needed is for HM Revenue and Customs to take their obligations to enforce the minimum wage more seriously and to stop dancing to the ship operators’ tune.”

Mick Cash of the RMT union said only a nationalised Northern Isles service could "meet the needs of local communities and the seafarers that serve them".

Crichton said the Daroja was chartered under “normal market terms”, and he added said the RMT are fully aware of Streamline’s position.

“Streamline employs over 200 staff across Shetland, Orkney, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Humberside and works hard to ensure success through the provision of high quality freight and logistics services at competitive prices to a wide range of customers,” he said.

“To be clear, Streamline does not employ seafarers. While the MV Daroja has served the islands well over the last ten years, we operate the vessel under a charter only, within normal market terms.

“Our service has been entirely unsubsidised for a number of years and we trust that our customers and the communities served recognise the work the company has put in to bring competition and alternative service options to the freight market. It is simply wrong to suggest somehow we have profiteered.

“We have spoken with the RMT and they are very well aware of our position and the jobs and work opportunities we provide. Theirs is a wider campaign however.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Streamline Shipping is a commercial operator and the Scottish Government’s contract with the company ended in 2014.

“We have raised the issue of mariners’ pay with the UK Government on numerous occasions in the past and recently took action to address similar issues on the Scottish Government’s freight contract with Seatruck.

“We will continue to press the UK Government to take action to improve this situation.”