20 July 2022
RMT Press Office:
SEAFARERS Union RMT today reacted with shock at the news that the Government has signed a contract with P&O Ferries, who sacked nearly 800 UK resident seafarers in March and immediately replaced them with agency crew, some on pay below the National Minimum Wage and required to work for months at sea.
The Second Reading of the Government’s Seafarers Wages Bill, the core element of the Department for Transport’s 9-point plan in response to P&O’s actions, will take place in the House of Lords later today.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “This is a new low, even by this zombie Government’s sinkhole standards.
"By signing contracts with the pariah P&O Ferries, the Conservative Government is helping to undercut thousands of British seafarer jobs at Stena Line, DFDS and across the shipping industry. In stark contrast to the stealth attacks on the principle of industrial action, the Government dragged its feet in response to P&O and is only now introducing legislation.
"At the same time, we learn that the Government is signing contracts again with P&O, providing revenue to a Dubai-owned company that admitted to breaking UK employment law and said that it would do so again. We urge the Government to issue a statement prohibiting public contracts with P&O Ferries and DP World, and to put collectively bargained terms and conditions on the face of the Seafarers Wages Bill. Trade union power is the only effective way to protect UK seafarer jobs from the likes of P&O.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Shipping Minister, Robert Courts MP has been forced to correct a written answer given to Labour MP Grahame Morris concerning the UK Government’s contracts with P&O Ferries. The Minister now states that: “We cannot rule out the possibility of Departments procuring P&O Ferries’ services through, for instance, internal commercial booking agents for official business on an ad-hoc basis.”
RMT has received evidence that the Ministry of Defence has bought slots on P&O’s Dover-Calais service. This was passed to the Department for Transport.
On 17 March, P&O Ferries instantly dismissed nearly 600 Ratings and 200 Officers from their ships operating from UK ports. UK resident seafarers were escorted off the vessels by handcuff trained private security guards and replaced by inexperienced agency crew waiting on the quayside.
An Indian Able Seafarer working on P&O’s Cypriot flagged Pride of Canterbury is paid a basic hourly rate of £3.97 to work 12 hour days for 17 weeks on the Dover-Calais route. many paid well below the UK national minimum wage on contracts with Maltese crewing agent IFM that require months at sea with no shore leave in the UK.
The Government introduced a Nine-Point Plan on 30 March in response to the P&O scandal. This included the commitment to change the law so that seafarers working on ships that regularly use UK ports are paid at least equivalent to the UK National Minimum Wage.
The Seafarers Wages Bill was published on 6 July after a short consultation. It only proposes to introduce a voluntary equivalent to the UK NMW and some penalties to be co-ordinated by the Transport Secretary and UK port authorities to protect seafarers from P&O style employment practices.
The maritime unions RMT and Nautilus along with progressive employers at Stena Line and DFDS are agreeing a National Framework Agreement with the Department for Transport, based on collectively bargained terms and conditions of employment including roster patterns, crewing levels and training. The Government has so far refused to put this agreement on the face of the Bill.