RMT calls for seafarer legislation fit to fight P&O Ferries

RMT calls for seafarer legislation fit to fight P&O Ferries

13 October 2022

RMT Press Office:

SEAFARERS Union RMT today called for meaningful action against P&O Ferries after the government’s Seafarers Wages Bill began its journey through the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

The government drew up the Bill after 800 directly employed seafarers were sacked by P&O in March and replaced by low paid agency workers.  The Bill is supposed to grant protection to seafarers working in UK waters but the company has already avoided prosecution from the Insolvency Service in the Summer. 

The Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords and will go before the House of Commons in the coming weeks. 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The lack of any punishment to date for P&O Ferries’ illegal attack on maritime jobs and skills has not gone unnoticed particularly in ports such as Dover and Hull affected by this unchecked corporate aggression designed in Dubai. 

“The Seafarers Wages Bill is the government’s main response to P&O Ferries but, typically it avoids using collective agreements between employers and unions to regulate crew wages on international routes. 

“We urge Parliamentarians in both Houses to support amendments that broaden the scope of the Bill so that it promotes trade union agreed pay and conditions, providing permanent employment, safe roster patterns and above minimum protections for as many seafarers as possible. 

“That is the sort of growth required to get the UK as a seafaring nationout of the maritime abyss our seafarers face after 12 years of Tory governments,” he said.



Notes to Editors


  • On 17 March 2022, P&O Ferries dismissed 786 directly employed UK Ratings and Officers from their jobs onboard 8 ships via Zoom call. The crew were marched off by handcuff trained private security guards and instantly replaced by agency crew waiting on the quayside.
  • On 23 March the Prime Minister told the Commons that the Government was “…taking legal action against the company concerned.”
  • On 30 March the Secretary of State for Transport announced a Nine Point Plan designed to force P&O Ferries to “…fundamentally rethink its decision and send a clear message to the maritime industry that we will not allow this to happen again: that where new laws are needed, we will create them, that where legal loopholes are cynically exploited, we will close them, and that where employment rights are too weak, we will strengthen them.”
  • The Seafarers Wages Bill was introduced in the House of Lords in July. The purpose of the Government’s Bill is to “grant protection to seafarers working on ships that regularly (at least once every 72 hours) use UK ports by ensuring that they are paid at least an equivalent rate to the UK National Minimum Wage while in UK waters, irrespective of the nationality of the seafarer or flag of the vessel.”
  • P&O Ferries are already legally obliged to pay at least the National Minimum Wage on its Cairnryan-Larne route. The two Bahamas registered vessels on this route, European Causeway and European Highlander are now entirely crewed by seafarer Ratings from overseas.
  • On 19 August, the Insolvency Service announced that it would not be launching criminal proceedings against P&O Ferries. The Insolvency Service continue to investigate P&O Ferries for civil offences.
  • Grand Committee Stage in the House of Lords is on 12 October. Amendment 10 tabled by the Labour Front Bench (Lord Tunnicliffe) would ensure that the Bill catches more crew on more ships in UK ports and Amendment 25 from the shadow front bench would ensure that operators would also have to comply with safe roster patterns and pension provision alongside wages. This would affect thousands more seafarers and cut the sort of dangerous contracts now used by P&O Ferries. For example, an Indian-national Able Seafarer on the Pride of Canterbury is worked for 17 weeks on basic pay below £4 per hour, without shore leave.




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Tagged with: P&O Ferries, DP World, Legislation, Mick Lynch, RMT, Seafarers Union