Seamen’s Salary Board Salary Regulation Ordinance amended to reflect rising cost of living
The Salary Regulation Ordinance of the Seamen’s Wages Council (Subsidiary Legislation 452.51) (the Ordinance) was recently amended by Legal Notice 469 of 2020. These amendments, which entered into force on January 1, 2021, were introduced to reflect an increase in the cost of living. The legislator has increased the minimum wage for specific categories of seafarers regulated by the Order.(1)
In addition to issues relating to minimum wage standards, the decree also regulates other working conditions for specific categories of seafarers, including annual leave, sick leave and special leave. The resulting standards are different from those imposed by the Merchant Shipping Act (the Act) or the Merchant Shipping Rules (Maritime Labor Convention) (the Rules). (2)
Scope of the order
The decree was first introduced in 1977 and has been amended several times since then to reflect natural wage increases and improved living standards. This legislation is a key part of Malta’s strong maritime legal framework and although the name of the Order implies that it concerns all seafarers, its provisions only apply to “employees on board ships operating regularly. in the territorial waters of Malta ”and“ does not apply to employees working on board fishing vessels or vessels going abroad ”.(3)
Understanding the limited scope of the decree is crucial to understanding how its provisions coexist with those of the law and rules, especially with regard to the assessment of the rights and obligations of the employment relationship between shipowners and shipowners. sea or persons working on board ships.
The law and rules regulate most categories of seafarers on board ships flying the Maltese flag, while the decree only applies to persons working on board ships in Maltese territorial waters. Although the scope of the decree is much narrower than that of the law or rules, there is some overlap in the rules applicable to persons working on board Maltese flag vessels operating locally in territorial waters.
It can be argued that, in view of its more specific application, the Ordinance should be considered to be lex specialis and, in the case of provisions contrary to the Law or the Rules, the standards of the Decree should apply to working hours, annual leave, sick leave, special leave and rest periods of employees working on board. ships regularly operating in territorial waters. from Malta.
Therefore, although the rules specifically state that they apply to “all Maltese seagoing vessels wherever they are”, the provisions of the order which specifically concern all seafarers or employees operating in the Maltese territorial waters, when different from the rules, should prevail.
Conditions of leave
The leave conditions granted to employees regulated by the ordinance are more similar to those found in the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (4), applicable to land employees, than to those found in found in law or rules.
Employees governed by the Order benefit from “four weeks and four working days” of annual leave for each calendar year of work. This differs significantly from the minimum amount of annual leave granted to seafarers under the rules, which is two and a half days of leave per month. However, the decree limits sick leave to 14 days at full pay and 14 days at half pay, which is in stark contrast to the obligations imposed on charterers and shipowners to seafarers under the rules.
Even though barely two years have passed since the previous round of amendments were made to the decree – concerning minimum wages for seafarers and employees operating in Maltese territorial waters – the legislator has ruled that the wage minimum applicable to this category of workers had to be increased once again.
In contrast, the latest changes to the Annual Leave Decree were implemented in 1990. This means that the annual leave standards provided for in the Decree are no longer up to those generally enjoyed by land employees. However, it is not certain that the legislator will seek to modify these provisions in the near future.
The decree (and its regular amendments) shows that the legislator understands that seafarers operating and working commercially in Maltese territorial waters, on ferries and other commercial vessels, represent a category of workers different from the stereotypical notion of seafarer. Seafarers governed by the Order are less likely to live or sleep on the ship they work on and generally have their place of residence ashore. This divergent reality among seafarers has led to the promulgation of different sets of rules and regulations applying to two distinct groups of workers: those who work on board ships regularly operating in Maltese territorial waters and those who do not. do not.