YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | UK cadets forced to take second jobs

Unions estimate up to 10% of officer cadets have to take second jobs to survive

A SIGNIFICANT number of UK officer cadets are so short of money that they are taking second jobs to make ends meet during their training, according to a survey from seafarer union Nautilus International.

A spokesman for the union said the exact figure was not available, but estimated that 5-10% of a sample of 260 volunteered the information without being prompted. That might understate the extent of the phenomenon, as an additional number may not have mentioned the matter.

However, the research found that cadets are generally satisfied with their training and are optimistic about their career prospects, although some clearly take a more cynical view.

The research was designed to expand and update a similar survey carried out ten years ago, and the union intends to use the results to press the case for better terms and conditions with shipowners and training organisation.

The respondents represent around a quarter of all cadets currently in training in Britain and Ireland, and consisted of 25 questions covering such matters as pay, leave, accommodation, travel costs and uniforms.

Among the findings was wide disparity between the salaries on offer to the best paid cadets and the earnings of their less fortunate colleagues, with some support for the idea of a standardised wage.

One cadet wrote: “This creates a tier system amongst cadets and and puts the poorer ones at a disadvantage as they have to fit in other jobs to earn extra money and just to survive, whereas other cadets have no such need to do so.

“That leaves them more time for study and other advantageous activities relating to their training programme.”

Almost 80% of respondents said that the work they undertake at sea while training should be paid in line with the national minimum wage, and three-quarters think their pay should rise in line with officer salary hikes.

There were also complaints that some companies demand up to £3,000 if cadets drop out of their course, and there were a number of complaints about late payment.

Respondents attended ten different training colleagues and institutions. Almost 50% stated the quality of their training as good, while a further 37% described it as adequate and 13% said it was poor.

Another cadet complain about finding himself the only English speaker on a ship. “This is something that can greatly affect your training and experience as a cadet,” he wrote.

“I am aware that I am only on board for tax reasons and am unlikely to be offered a job. It’s a little bit of a morale killer.”

Another commented: “Working at McDonald’s would not have been so much fun, but at least for the last two years I would have been earning the minimum wage and not wasting my time earning a qualification that I will be hard pressed to use in an economically declining world that is growing ever more dependent on cheaper and ever less skilled foreign labourers.”


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