According to reports, new crew recruited to operate P&O ferries are being offered wages as low as £2.60 an hour. The agency’s staff were bought out after the ferry company suddenly laid off 800 staff last week, and are paid so little that some union bosses have described it as a 21st century recreation of ‘slave ships’.
The agency that will be responsible for the new P&O Ferries crews was set up just four weeks ago according to Mailonline, which reported that Maltese company International Ferry Management is run by a Swiss maritime boss whose name was mentioned in the leak. of the Paradise Papers in 2017.
A 59-year-old who worked with the company for 23 years described the mass layoffs as “a grab for money and a total betrayal”. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he told MailOnline that cheaper agency workers, believed to be from Eastern Europe, were being recruited on wages of £2-3 an hour to replace the British sailors whose hourly rates can eclipse £28, reports Hull Live.
Conservative Chairman Oliver Dowden said P&O Ferries and its parent company DP World should “have no doubts” that the government is considering its ties to them following the massive sacking. Government contracts with companies are being reviewed and Mr Dowden said there was ‘revulsion’ about the handling of the process. “I think they should have no doubt that the government is looking very closely at its relationship with them,” he said.
He told Times Radio that the government was trying to establish whether the mass firing was legal. “That’s why the Transport Secretary (Grant Shapps) has asked the Insolvency Service to look at notification requirements, for example, and see if other steps are appropriate,” Dowden said. “We all feel, frankly, a revulsion at P&O’s kind of sharp practices. There has been a complete lack of commitment, lack of notice or even any kind of empathy for the workers.
Transport Secretary Mr Shapps and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to the P&O chief executive on Friday to express their “disappointment and anger” at the massive sacking. Mr Shapps said he had instructed the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency (MCA) to carry out inspections of all P&O vessels before they return to sea to check that the new crews the company has precipitated” are safe. Demonstrations took place in the ports of London, Liverpool, Larne, Hull and Dover on Friday as unions called for a boycott of the company.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We need to get to the bottom of this scandal. The government must be transparent and publish the legal opinions it has received. It’s the least the P&O crew deserves. If the company has broken the law, it must face serious consequences – not just a slap on the wrist. What happened at P&O can never happen again. Ministers must urgently introduce a Jobs Bill to stop workers being treated as disposable labour. The time for excuses is over.
Billy Jones, Humber Shipping’s branch secretary for the RMT, said the defiant captain of the Pride of Hull had assured him the ship would not leave its Yorkshire port because the new crew of cheaper agency workers “still haven’t not entitled to sail the ship’ under maritime law, reports the Yorkshire Post.
Speaking of the new crews, he explained: “They are still not allowed to sail the vessel unless cleared by the MCA.” There’s still a P&O team on board, a small team to make sure they don’t take the ship. Mr Jones said the mass layoffs could mean the ‘end of Britain’s shipping industry’ and criticized the company for turning its ships into ‘modern slave ships’ as it was suggested new crew needed to be paid as little as £2.60 an hour. .