Agency workers from India who have been recruited to replace the 800 P&O Ferries crew members who were sacked with no notice last week (March 17) are being paid £1.81 per hour, the RMT union has claimed.
Read more: P&O sacks 800 UK crew saying action was needed to remain ‘viable’
A spokesman for the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, which represents many of the fired staff, told The Connexion that union members had been told the figure by staff who were now working on the boats.
If this is the case, the workers would be earning less than one quarter of the UK minimum wage for people over the age of 23, which is £8.91 per hour.
RMT said in a statement that this was “shocking exploitation” and a “gut-wrenching betrayal of those who have been sacked.”
“The rule of law and acceptable norms of decent employment and behaviour have completely broken down beneath the white cliffs of Dover and in other ports yet five days into this national crisis the government has done nothing to stop it.
“These ships of shame must not be allowed to sail. The government has to step in now and take control before it’s too late.”
"We have no beef with those people. We want those people to be paid the wages that we've negotiated for in this country," the union’s General Secretary Mick Lynch said.
P&O Ferries has said that the £1.81 figure is not accurate but did not provide any further information on how much the workers were being paid by their agency, or whether they were receiving minimum wage.
It is possible for companies which use UK ports to register their ships in other countries, enabling them to pay their staff less than minimum wage. Some of P&O’s ferries are registered in Cyprus.
‘Simply not good enough’
"Maritime employees have not, in this country, indeed throughout much of the world, received some of the same benefits and protections that exist otherwise for workers and this is simply not good enough and it's a practice we have been seeking to end,” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons.
Mr Shapps also told MPs that P&O was trying to “keep employees quiet” by only giving them their redundancy pay if they sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. The company has not directly addressed this claim.
Following P&O’s actions, the transport and environment branch of France’s Force Ouvrière (FO) union, FEETS FO, came out in support of the sacked staff members, “calling on the French government to intervene with P&O to protect maritime links between the UK and France which are respectful of minimum social standards.
“Just like factories that are relocated overnight and behind employees’ backs, P&O’s methods are inadmissible. We cannot accept that 800 employees and just as many families have been sacrificed from one day to the next simply for the profit of the company,” it said.
“Support for our comrades in P&O’s British unions.”
Read more: French union calls for government action over P&O sackings
Following RMT’s latest claims, FEETS FO spokesperson told The Connexion: “Unfortunately these hourly rates are not in the least bit surprising in the deregulated sector which is the maritime transport industry.”
Dover-Calais services still suspended
When P&O made its redundancies, nearly a quarter of which happened over video call, it also suspended all of its services. Liverpool-Dublin crossings resumed over the weekend, but other sailings including Dover-Calais services are still not operating.
P&O has not responded to our requests for further information on when they will resume, but it was initially predicted that the suspension would last for up to 10 days, meaning that cross-Channel ferries should begin running again by the end of this week.
#PODover #POCalais Services today remain cancelled. Please arrive as booked, we will get you away on an alternative carrier as soon as possible. Once at the port please head to the DFDS check-in booths. We apologise for the inconvenience this may have on your journey plans...— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) March 22, 2022
Until then, passengers who had booked onto services should go to DFDS check-in booths, where they will be allocated a space on another crossing.
P&O has been given until tonight (March 22) to explain to the government whether the correct employment law procedures were followed during the redundancies.
Mr Shapps said: “If they have flouted the notification law where they are supposed to tell the secretary of state when they are going to make more than a hundred people redundant, then there are criminal sanctions involved in that, including an unlimited fine.
“We have reserved the right to approach the prosecuting authorities should that be the right thing to do.”
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