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French MPs vote to give cross-Channel ferry workers a minimum wage

The law aims to prevent a repeat of the P&O Ferries scandal, which saw 800 staff fired and replaced with cheaper agency staff

The new French law cites actions by P&O Ferries as an example of “the risk of the worsening of social and working conditions for ship workers” Pic: Ian_Stewart / Shutterstock

French MPs have voted in favour of a law that aims to stop cross-Channel ferry companies from employing low-cost labour. 

It is a direct response to P&O Ferries firing 800 staff last year and replacing them with cheaper agency staff.

The RMT union claimed the replacements were being paid £1.80 (€2.04) an hour, although P&O disputes this.

France calls this practice “social dumping”.

Finistère MP Didier Le Gac, Aurore Bergé (MP for Yvelines) and Sébastien Jumel (MP for Seine-Maritime) proposed the new law, which was adopted by France’s parliament on Tuesday (March 28).

“For the purposes of protecting workers through the payment of a decent wage and the preservation of fair competition, it is proposed by this [law] to establish the payment of a minimum hourly wage below which workers cannot be remunerated,” according to the text accompanying the legislation.

It went on to say that the P&O case “illustrated the risk of the worsening of social and working conditions for ship workers, which has been criticised many times in France”.

MPs also argued that P&O’s actions represented an attack on competitiveness in the sector, as other companies are effectively being penalised if they continue to employ staff at higher wages (and therefore need to charge more for tickets or services).

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

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

The legal text said that the “political scandal” provoked by P&O’s actions had led to a similar law being advanced in the UK, which would also introduce a minimum salary. 

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

French MP Hervé Berville told Le Monde the law was “a decisive step in the fight against ‘social dumping’”. He had called for the “protection of the French model” against “unscrupulous and scandalous actions of some involved parties”.

MPs also said that P&O Ferries’ actions amounted to a non-competitive move at the expense of French firm Brittany Ferries.

The law also gave the government the right to impose administrative sanctions on companies that breach the rules. It also banned companies from admitting any ship worker on board if they do not have a valid first aid certificate.

Mr Le Gac welcomed the result: “Often people say that France turns its back on the sea, but this evening we looked at it face on.” 

He called the law “a first essential step” in “saving our ship workers”.

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

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