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YOUR LETTERS 18 | telegraph | | March 2012

Ageist fi rm was not alone

With reference to the letter from A.J. West in the December Telegraph (‘Ageist company discounts 21 years of loyal service’), Mr West’s forced retirement appears to have taken place prior to October 2010, which is when the UK announced that it would abolish the default retirement age of 65 and started to phase in the transitional process. I, and an unknown number of my senior

offi cer colleagues were dismissed at the height of the recession in 2008, as we were over 65. We were given the statutory six months notice, and the letter informing us of the decision to dismiss us invited us to state the reasons why we wanted to continue working, which was also a statutory requirement. I posted my letter by signed delivery to

Guernsey on a Monday, and received the reply, also by signed delivery on Thursday morning. The speed of the reply was an indication to me of how desperate they were to get rid of us. There was no consultation, discussion or meeting between me and technical management, which although located in Newcastle, were legally only the agents of the managers in Guernsey. The actual management company in

Guernsey, although quite willing to use UK law when it came to dismissing the over 65s,

hid behind Channel Islands legislation when we requested copies of all communications between Newcastle and Guernsey under the Data Protection Act, saying that it did not apply there. How convenient. And how convenient that by dismissing

the over 65s using current UK legislation, the company did not have to pay us one penny in compensation or redundancy. So, my 17 years seniority with the same

company was rewarded with absolutely nothing except a die cast (not cut) glass decanter and two whiskey glasses, which went straight to a local charity shop. My wife’s friends and family were amazed

that a major company like mine could dismiss me without a penny. They all thought that I would have received a nice golden handshake or some form of redundancy for all those years served. A month or so after we were dumped

and safely out of the way, the company sent out a fl eet circular calling for over 100 redundancies amongst the senior offi cers, which confi rmed to me that the dismissal of the over-65s was carefully planned to avoid paying any form of compensation. Had I and my over 65-year-old colleagues been offered this redundancy, I would probably have received the maximum 15


months redundancy payment which, being tax-exempt, might have tipped the balance between me retiring and having to continue working. And had the company agreed to my written request to continue working until I was 70 years of age (just over two years more of work) there would have been no doubt about my options. It is interesting to note that our Danish colleagues in the same company were offered an extended retirement age of up to 70 years of age.

The fi nal insult and slap in the face was a letter from management in Newcastle inviting me to attend a lunch and presentation to ‘celebrate my retirement’. I replied that I had no reason to celebrate my retirement, as I was forced, and did not choose to retire. I am interested to note that the same

company has been advertising in several recent editions of the Telegraph for senior offi cers for their container fl eet. I was almost tempted to apply for my old job, but realised that they could probably employ East Europeans for quite a bit less than they were paying us older and more experienced masters three years ago. Capt Nicholas Cooper mem no 119730

Festival invitation for MN veterans

I was very pleased to read cadet Kym Hughes’s report (page 18, January Telegraph) on his participation in the 2011 Festival of Remembrance. Kym and fellow cadets did a fantastic job as ambassadors for today’s Merchant Navy. I would however like to correct

one comment that he made — that the MN has only been represented for two years. In fact, the Merchant Navy Welfare Board has worked closely with the Royal British Legion, over many years, to place four veterans and a standard bearer, carrying the Red Ensign, in the ceremony. The welcome addition of four cadets is however very recent. The Legion, for its part, has

increased the prominence of the MN, by giving us our own separate march into the central arena. They are accompanied, appropriately by the band playing All the Nice Girls love a Sailor! Every year we hear how much the

veterans and now the cadets enjoy the honour of representing the MN in this prestigious event, played out in front of members of the royal family,

numerous VIPs and, via the media, an audience of millions of spectators. For this year’s Festival of

Remembrance, the Merchant Navy Welfare Board would like to hear from any eligible seafarer who is prepared to take part. Eligibility includes not only service in UK confl icts but those, such as the Vietnam or Iran/Iraq wars. The festival will take place on Saturday 10 November 2012. Any eligible person willing to

undertake this needs to be reasonably fi t, as the event includes two long days commencing with rehearsals on the Friday morning. The Board will cover reasonable travel costs for participants and arrange hotel accommodation for those living outside London. gAnyone interested should contact Louise Fairweather, PA to chief executive, at: Merchant Navy Welfare Board, 8 Cumberland Place, Southampton, Hants, SO15 2BH. Tel: +44 (0)2380 337799. Email: Capt D.A. PARSONS MNM MNI Chief Executive Merchant Navy Welfare Board

Pensions in peril...? Sort out sea time!

I am a foundation degree deck cadet and am writing to express my concern at the inability of training companies to actually get cadets adequate sea time. The timeframes for end of college and beginning of

sea phases are clearly defi ned, yet from my experience there seems to be a lack of forward planning regarding sea placements. The combined fi rst and second sea phases total 19

months (eight in fi rst and 11 in second) and this, I naively thought, would enable me to achieve at least 13 or 14 months sea time. Instead I fi nd myself still requiring over four months sea time (to achieve the minimum 12 months) with the fi nal college phase due to commence in four months time. It seems that the minimum sea time is good enough

as far as training companies are concerned, rather than trying to help their trainees excel and become competent — something that an extra month or two at sea would certainly go a long way to help achieve. There is a clear disparity between the sea time gained

by cadets who are employed directly by their companies (such as Shell) and that gained by the cadets of training companies, with the former obtaining more than the minimum sea time and gaining this experience on a fewer number of ships. If the training companies fi nd it so diffi cult to

get cadets sea placements, then they must be over- recruiting — but maybe it is the case of ‘bums on seats’ in colleges and facilitating the tax breaks for companies that are the most important factors in cadet training. MNTB please take note. mem no 197143

Recognition of MN service is improving

I would like to respond to Charles Woodward’s letter in the February edition of the Telegraph (‘Medal awards always miss out MN service’). Whilst we all share the frustrations about the

lack of recognition about the Merchant Navy, it is up to each of us to help raise the profi le. This could be anything from signing up to be Careers at Sea Ambassadors (see MNTB website) through to lobbying the government to urge that serving MN personnel should receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Some within the industry have indeed done the latter, but at time of writing there has been no formal response. Mr Woodward comments that ‘it appears that

even the Merchant Navy Medal is being awarded to fewer and fewer seagoing personnel these days, or people with sea time under their belts’. In reality there should have been a Merchant Navy Medal for the last 100 years, but it took one man’s vision in 2004 to actually achieve this. Since the committee’s fi rst meeting (then only three of us!) it has grown to include all aspects of our diverse industry. The Medal is increasingly gaining recognition as a prestigious annual award recognising ‘acts of courage afl oat, or meritorious service, by persons from the United Kingdom, or British Overseas Dependent Territories, within

the Merchant Navy or fi shing fl eet’. An unlimited number of medals can be awarded for acts of courage afl oat. The numbers for the other category are deliberately restricted to a maximum of 20 in order not to dilute its signifi cance. Meritorious service, by defi nition, recognises

those people that have made a major contribution to merchant shipping and its seafarers. It is pleasing to report that, in the last few years, there has been no shortage of good nominations and as a result, on almost each occasion, the maximum allocation has been presented. I would like to reassure Mr Woodward that

the committee responsible for deciding these awards is, in this Diamond Jubilee year, actively seeking offi cial recognition of the medal within the honours system. This will allow the recipients to wear the medal on their left breast, rather than on the opposite side as at present. Nominations are always very welcome and should be forwarded before 30 June in the year for which they are intended. Details about the medal and the nomination process can be found on Capt MATTHEW EASTON Chairman Merchant Navy Medal Fund

The last of Britain’s top private pension funds could be destroyed under rules dreamed up by Brussels bureaucrats. The new rules, called Solvency II, will impose huge new burdens on pension schemes in the UK. These pension schemes, which include the MNOPF, will have to inject up to £100bn of extra money into the schemes in order to provide an additional safety net which will persuade many companies to simply give up on their pension scheme. The European Commission is planning to publish its draft legislation for Solvency II, which will treat pension funds more like insurance companies, next autumn. These plans would ramp costs up dramatically. Businesses struggling with a fl atline economy would suddenly have to pump billions more into their pension scheme. This would mean less money for jobs and investment, at a time when the economy desperately needs both. Firms would be so badly hit by these new rules that they would simply shut these pensions down altogether.

European regulations are being

imposed on us when we don’t need them. This will just accelerate the closure of the few good British pension schemes. To stop these rules coming into

force in this country which would mean the destruction of some of the best British pensions e-mail Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister on so that the UK government will wage war on this Solvency II ruling before it’s too late for the private sector pensions and all their members. GRAHAM DAVIES mem no 12012 Council member

Nautilus senior policy advisor Peter McEwen comments: The intention of Solvency II is to improve the security of pension funds and thus protect pensioners. We need to ensure that there is not an unintended consequence (as seen in many UK laws) that actually weakens funds and this factor is what Nautilus will continue to work on with the government.

BNS reunion call

To all ex-schoolmates who attended the Boulevard Nautical School (Kingston upon Hull High School of Nautical Training), and particularly those starting in 1962: we are organising a reunion for the class of 1962-1964, to be held early in September 2012. The venue is not yet decided, but will be within the original catchment area for the BNS. So far we have traced some 15 of

our classmates and if you number amongst the intake of 1962 and would be interested in joining us, please contact: If the following names are familiar

from your school days we would really like to hear from you, even if you do not wish to attend the get-together: Dave Morton Dennis Stone

Don Rutland John Ireland

Tim Smith Keith Brook Richard Bird Steve Hird

Ray Gott Peter Brown

Robin Rainbow David Clarke

This will be an informal occasion

and whilst partners are welcome, the majority already committed to attend are doing so on a bachelor basis — as their respective WAGs have heard more than enough about ships and shipping to last a life time. If you attended the BNS, but fall outside of this intake year we would still be pleased to hear from you as, on the basis of this reunion working, it would be great to spread the net wider and organise a school reunion sometime in the near future.

DAVID CLARKE mem no 104092

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