Tuesday , 21 January 2020
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Nautilus International (formerly NUMAST), the trade union for maritime professionals at sea and ashore, has condemned a message from container shipping giant Maersk urging its sea staff to “eat cake” to celebrate the company’s recent announcement of increased profits.

Nautilus bites back at Maersk’s ‘let them eat cake’ message

In a message sent to the fleet, Maersk Line chief operating officer Morten Engelstoft described the company’s ‘impressive’ third quarter results, with US$4.2bn profits recorded by the AP Møller Group – of which some US$2.25bn was chalked up by the container business.

Mr Engelstoft said the ‘everyday commitment’ of seastaff to reducing costs has had a real impact on the overall result and he urged crews to join shore-based staff in the Copenhagen office in celebrating the results with some traditional Danish lagkage (cream cake).

Nautilus general secretary, Mark Dickinson, commented: ‘It is clear from the feedback we have had from members in the fleet that seafarers are more likely to be choking back their anger than celebrating with management ashore.

‘This spectacularly misjudged message echoes the words attributed to Marie-Antoinette who, when told that the French people had no bread to eat during a famine, was said to have replied: “Let them eat brioche”. ‘Sadly, Maersk seem to be as out of touch with their staff as the French royalty were to their people,’ Dickinson said.

‘The profits have been achieved on the back of job losses for highly skilled and experienced personnel, and cuts in operating costs that have left some ships with food budgets that would barely run to covering the costs of cooking cream cakes or providing something to eat them off, since paper serviettes were banned.’

Dickinson urged Maersk to listen to the barrage of dissent that has been generated by the ‘cream cake’ call, with seafarers on more than 40 of the company’s containerships joining a protest against the message. ‘Instead of cake, seafarers are looking for genuine recognition of their contribution to Maersk’s recovery over the past year,’ he pointed out.

‘This means delivering on our repeated requests for a job security agreement and a demonstrable commitment to the future of European officers, with a defined strategy for recruitment, training and retention.

‘It is time for Maersk to give its staff more than mere crumbs of comfort, but to plough some of those profits back into investment in the maritime professionals they need for the safe and efficient operation of their ships,’ said Dickinson.