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French MPs push law to protect Channel ferry workers after P&O layoffs

The proposed law aims to protect ferry workers after P&O sacked 800 employees last year and replaced them with cheaper, foreign labour

The new bill comes in direct response to the mass firing of 800 British workers at P&O Ferries last year Pic: Paul Wishart / Shutterstock

French MPs are pushing for a new law that would give workers on ferries between England and France a minimum wage.

Didier Le Gac and Aurore Bergé, from the Renaissance party, put forward the legislative proposal aimed at ending what they call “social dumping” on ferry routes crossing the English Channel.

It is also co-signed by a long list of other MPs in favour of the proposals.

It comes after ferry operator P&O sacked almost 800 British workers in March 2022, without notice, and replaced them with agency workers from outside of the EU who were paid less than the minimum wage.

Read more: French union calls for government action over P&O sackings

Read more: P&O sacks 800 UK crew saying action was needed to remain ‘viable’

The company did not face criminal charges after the UK Insolvency Service said that it would “not commence criminal proceedings…after a full and robust criminal investigation into the circumstances”. 

The proposed bill’s text said the incident “illustrates the risk of the worsening of social and working conditions of sea workers”. 

It added that the “political scandal” that erupted after the mass redundancy had led the UK government to consider a legal proposal that would require all workers to be paid the UK minimum wage.

Read more: France urged to follow as UK launches ferry fair pay law after P&O row

Read more: New P&O ferry crew workers earn £1.81 per hour, UK union claims  

The proposal states that a new “policing law” would “ensure that passenger transport on international scheduled services is carried out under sustainable social conditions”. 

These conditions would “guarantee the rights of employees” and ensure “fair conditions of competition between companies in the sector”. 

It said that the passenger transport sector was particularly sensitive to wage costs, due to the large maritime workforce that it employs.

The text continues: “Until recently, the employees of these services in French ports were still largely employed at standards comparable to French or British standards. The P&O case has introduced…seafarers employed under social conditions in low labour cost countries.”

This introduces, it said “a socially worsened model that is incompatible with fair competition and worker protection”. 

It said that P&O’s actions would lead to lower wages for maritime workers in general, and was a threat to fair competition laws in the sector, “with companies paying their employees fairly being penalised”.

The proposal clearly calls for the introduction of a “payment of a minimum hourly wage below which employees working on board ships operating cross-Channel services may not be paid”.

This would, it said, “protect workers…and preserve fair competition”.

Related articles

French union calls for government action over P&O sackings

French P&O staff protest in Calais over sacking of British colleagues

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