Fair Ferries Campaign

Circular No.NP/85/22

To all Branches and Regional Councils

31st March 2022

Dear Colleagues

Fair Ferries Campaign

Further to Circular No. 83/22 I am writing to update you on the latest developments in the campaign against P&O Ferries scandalous and illegal actions against our members, the seafarer Ratings who have maintained safe, strategic ferry services in this country for decades.

The deadline for our members to accept P&O’s ‘enhanced payment’ was 5pm today. I regret to say that there will be no re-instatement of P&O Ferries seafarers on RMT terms and conditions which applied prior to this catastrophic assault on the employment rights, legal security and trade union collective agreements covering our members. The tactics of this company, under instruction from DP World have left our members with no choice but to accept the severance package cynically offered to them by P&O. A number of employers are also interviewing former P&O members for Ratings positions on their vessels.

Ever since this destructive action was taken on 17th March, the Government including the mendacious Prime Minister have claimed to be taking legal action against P&O. Ministers have also supported the unions’ call on P&O to reinstate the dismissed P&O seafarers on their original terms and conditions.

We are keeping up the fight for justice for our P&O members and all seafarers. Earlier today, your NEC decided on a political and industrial Fair Ferries campaign which re-establishes collectively bargained terms and conditions agreed with the RMT as the minimum employment standard for Ratings on international ferry routes from UK ports. Permanent employment, pensions, safe roster patterns and Ratings apprenticeships will also be campaign demands with the aim of eradicating the low-cost crewing model from the ferry industry. This includes all ro-ro, ro-pax and lo-lo vessels and covers thousands of Ratings jobs on international routes from UK ports.

The Union has been in detailed discussions with Government and ferry employers over a framework agreement in the ferries sector that supports collectively bargained rates of pay, high safety standards, safe roster patterns, Ratings training and full pension rights.

Yesterday, the Transport Secretary announced nine measures in response to the P&O scandal which I summarise below:

  1. Engagement with governments on international ferry routes from the UK, particularly Republic of Ireland, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Belgium to agree common pay and other standards through dialogue with seafarer trade unions.
  2. Give UK Ports legal powers to refuse access to ferries crewed with seafarers paid below the NMW through the Harbours Act 1964.
  3. In the interim, write to all ports instructing them to deny access to ferry operators that pay seafarers below the NMW.
  4. Increased resources to HMRC for NMW enforcement in the ferry sector.
  5. A review of Maritime and Coastguard Agency enforcement policies, including in relation to the P&O fleet.
  6. A new statutory code on Fire and Rehire.
  7. Insolvency Service asked to consider disqualification of Peter Hebblethwaite as a director of P&O or any other company.
  8. An international minimum wage for seafarers and improvements to training.
  9. Tonnage Tax to increase the number of ships on the UK Flag and protect seafarer welfare standards.

A lot of this is bluster and, typically, Grant Shapps over emphasized National Minimum Wage in the responses to P&O’s illegal actions. We know that there are no existing powers to enforce the NMW on international ferry routes. Whilst these new measures are introduced, with your Union’s direct input we will continue to hold the Government to account for rates of pay, roster patterns and other conditions at the likes of P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries, Condor Ferries, Seatruck and Cobelfret.

However, establishing the NMW as a wage floor and agreeing collectively bargained pay and conditions for all seafarers is a central aim of the Fair Ferries campaign and aims to hit back at P&O’s illegal assault on our members and their families.

This rank injustice will not be brushed under the carpet and we are also demanding Government to close the loopholes in employment legislation that P&O exploited to ensure that this shameful act can never again be visited on seafarers or any other workers.

I would be grateful if you could bring the content of this circular to the attention of all members in your Branch and you will be kept updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Lynch
General Secretary