RMT demands government action to save over 1000 P&O Ferries’ jobs

RMT demands government action to save over 1000 P&O Ferries’ jobs

22 May 2020

RMT Press Office:

FERRIES’ Union RMT has today written to the Shipping Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP demanding actions from the Government to support the Union’s fight to save more than a thousand jobs at P&O Ferries.

Over 730 of these jobs are currently held by UK seafarer Ratings employed on strategically vital ferry routes from Dover and Hull to the continent.

In his letter, RMT general secretary Mick Cash calls on the UK Government to take the following steps to save jobs at P&O Ferries and to re-build UK seafarer employment in this country:

• Issue a public statement opposing compulsory redundancies and implore P&O Ferries to use the extended furlough scheme in the UK to protect employment for key workers, especially seafarers and dockers.
• Place a condition of long term employment protections for British Ratings and Officers on all state support provided to P&O Ferries and any other operator, including but not limited to Public Service Obligation routes.‎
• Pursue public ownership and control of P&O Ferries’ operations as a priority.
• Outlaw nationality based pay discrimination against seafarers on UK registered vessels.
• Commit to a strategy for returning the UK ferry fleet to the Red Ensign.
• Amend the Tonnage Tax scheme to include mandatory links to training and employment for UK Ratings and Officers.
• Reform the UK’s Cabotage laws to apply and enforce UK employment, equality and immigration law in the shipping industry.

Mick Cash said:

“These are keyworker jobs that support the local economy, particularly in Dover and Hull.

“P&O Ferries and their paymasters in Dubai are threatening RMT seafarers’ jobs because they want to replace them with cheaper Ratings from the other side of the world when the recovery in passenger numbers comes.

“We have a healthy dialogue with the Shipping Minister and her officials but we must now see dynamic action from the Government in support of British seafarers jobs on vital ferry routes that are being subsidised by the taxpayer.”


Ends.

Notes for editors
 
1.        P&O Ferries announced on 11 May 2020 that they are seeking 1,100 redundancies. The informed RMT of their intention to make 734 and 122 of these cuts amongst Ratings working in ferries from Dover and Hull, respectively.
2.        The Government has provided over £10m in wage payments to 1,400 furloughed P&O staff since the start of the pandemic.
3.        The Government extended the furlough scheme on 12 May 2020 for another three months to the end of October.
4.        The DfT Freight Support package announced 18 May 2020 provides funding under a Public Service Obligation to operators of roll-on roll-off freight routes that would not be viable without that support. The routes and operators are listed below: 
 
Routes currently eligible for support: 
Route
Portsmouth-Santander
Portsmouth-Cherbourg 
Poole-Bilbao 
Dover-Dunkerque 
Dover-Calais 
Folkestone-Coquelles 
Cairnryan-Larne 
Tilbury-Zeebrugge 
Teesport-Europoort 
Hull-Europoort/Rotterdam 
Hull-Zeebrugge 
Heysham-Warrenpoint 
Rotterdam-Killingholme 
Cairnryan-Belfast 
Harwich-Rotterdam 
Harwich-Hoek van Holland 
  • Operators who will receive funding are:
                                i.             Brittany Ferries
                              ii.             DFDS
                            iii.             Eurotunnel
                             iv.             P&O
                               v.             Seatruck
                             vi.             Stena
  • Actual amounts paid will depend on the actual amount of capacity required and sold in each week.
  • Routes between GB and Northern Ireland will receive an estimated £5.5 million. The Northern Ireland Executive will contribute 40% of the funding on these routes.
 
 
Full text of Letter to Shipping Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP:
 
Kelly Tolhurst MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
Department for Transport                                           
Great Minster House                                     
33 Horseferry Road                                         
London SW1P 4DR
Our ref: S1/1/20
21st May 2020
 
Dear Kelly
 
P&O Ferries attack on UK Seafarers’ Jobs
 
As you will be aware from DfT officials’ accounts of the weekly Maritime Trade Union Forum meetings, RMT is opposed to and seriously concerned by P&O Ferries’ plans to make 1,100 redundancies, predominantly amongst UK seafarers working on ferries from Dover and Hull and the implications that this could have for the future of UK Ratings in the ferry industry.
 
At a stroke, P&O is proposing to cut 8% of all British Ratings’ jobs – 614 in Dover and 122 in Hull. Most of these Ratings are RMT members; all are covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between P&O Ferries and the RMT. We regard this as an all out attack on the British Rating on P&O’s short sea routes from Dover and Hull which will see them replaced on these routes by cheaper foreign seafarers not covered by the RMT CBA when passenger numbers recover. You will recall that P&O Ferries had already sought to import Filipino On-Board Service crew on ferries from Hull prior to the Covid-19 crisis.
 
Based on the list of Public Service Obligation routes published by the Government earlier this week, we estimate that P&O Ferries has received at least £25m in support from the taxpayer during the pandemic, including £10m from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to cover 80% of wages for 1,400 furloughed workers. The routes earmarked by P&O for mass redundancies of UK seafarers also feature on the PSO list, as do other low cost operators such as Seatruck.
 
You will also be aware that P&O Ferries UK fleet is dominated by two Flags of Convenience – Cyprus and the Bahamas. This further exposes UK seafarers at P&O Ferries to unfair competition and unsafe working conditions. Without action, Ratings jobs on the two new Ro-Ro passenger ferries P&O has ordered from Guangzhou shipyard for the Dover-Calais route will go to seafarers from outside the UK on inferior terms and conditions to those that UK seafarers rightly expect to be covered by.
 
We would also point out that the Maritime & Coastguard Agency rather than the Flag State has provided the critical safety support to P&O and every other seafarer working on these critical Ro-Ro supply routes during the pandemic.
 
We look forward to discussing the local and national impact of P&O’s attack on British Ratings at the next ministerial meeting with the maritime trade unions. 
 
In the meantime, we would welcome the following actions from your Government to protect British seafarer jobs and skills from P&O Ferries proposals which would further and severely damage my members livelihoods in Dover and Hull, as well as  the resilience of the UK’s strategically vital ro-ro ferry services.
 
•             Issue a public statement opposing compulsory redundancies and implore P&O Ferries to use the extended furlough scheme in the UK to protect employment for key workers, especially seafarers and dockers.
•             Place a condition of  long term employment protections for British Ratings and Officers on all state support provided to P&O Ferries and any other operator, including but not limited to Public Service Obligation routes.
•             Pursue public ownership and control of P&O Ferries’ operations as a priority.
•             Outlaw nationality based pay discrimination against seafarers on UK registered vessels.
•             Commit to a strategy for returning the UK ferry fleet to the Red Ensign. 
•             Amend the Tonnage Tax scheme to include mandatory links to training and employment for UK Ratings and Officers.
•             Reform the UK’s Cabotage laws to apply and enforce UK employment, equality and immigration law in the shipping industry.
 
RMT look forward to working with the Government in taking these and other effective actions to protect current and future employment of British Ratings in the UK ferry industry. 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Mick Cash
General Secretary

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Tagged with: P&O Ferries, seafarers, ratings, maritime, redundancies, Dover, Hull