Unfair dismissal is, unfortunately, still taking place in the crew industry, with a large number of senior crew having had it happen to them, or at the least, a colleague. Five superyacht captains share their thoughts on why unfair dismissal continues to occur today, despite regulations, and what the industry needs to do to put a stop to it.

Why is unfair dismissal still a problem in our industry and what needs to be done about it?

Captain Nick Wigram
When [my friend] complained about [a] year of harassment and his unpleasant dismissal, management gave him a list of reasons for his dismissal, which didn’t seem correct. Months later, unable to find work and with finances at home getting very tight, he complained again to the management company, questioning his dismissal. Nearly eight months after his dismissal, they came back saying that they were merely acting as agents for an offshore company and that he had not been sacked or dismissed. The management company was not responsible for the actions of their employee, it said, and the captain’s employment had been “terminated” within the terms of his contract. Maybe he had missed something.

If this is correct, it means management companies aren’t answerable to anyone and you can throw a captain or crewmember on the dock at any time, no reason given. In 2013 this should not be able to happen.

A few years ago, after a season with many technical problems, I insisted to the manager of an old superyacht that there was a large amount of maintenance, repairs and upgrades to be made. The boat was also not in compliance with safety and environment protection rules, but the manager was convinced of the contrary and he didn’t like being pressurised about such matters. I unfairly lost my job just by being professional.

The MLC will hopefully change this but it is important to remember that this applies only to commercial yachts, and pleasure vessels are currently exempt. While we are educating our crews to comply with these new regulations we should also be trying to inform our owners, too. It is no longer acceptable to fire someone because the owner doesn’t like the look of their face. It is no longer acceptable to leave someone with their bags on the quay in a foreign port while the yacht sails off to a new destination. It is no longer acceptable to terminate the employment of someone who has had a serious work-related accident on board without adequate care.

Captain Jason Downes
Is fear of owners’ reactions the driving force behind so many ascendant yacht captains ignoring the well-being of a group of people that they were so recently a part of themselves? Regardless of the reason, there should be an industry standard response to dismissal, and we as an industry should be protecting our own people within it. The industry should be regulating itself on this issue, because if we don’t, other regulators will surely impose their own standards upon us.

Captain Stève Pondart
I am convinced that strict application of the law is the only way to stop this, but it is generally not the case. I am impatient to see what will happen under implementation of the MLC. But to be honest, many laws already exist and have not been applied, as I’ve been witness to for more than 13 years in yachting. I don’ t like to be a pessimist, but why would the MLC change that, bearing in mind the huge amount of money and billionaires involved?