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P&O Ferries is embroiled in yet another scandal, this time involving how much it pays employees. 

March 17, 2024, marked the two-year anniversary since the ferry operator, which is owned by the Dubai-based DP World, sacked 786 of its direct employees. It was considered the most egregious act of corporate vandalism in recent history.

At the time, the then Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced to the House of Commons a “package of nine measures that will force it [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…where new laws are needed, we will create them…where legal loopholes are cynically exploited, we will close them, and that where employment rights are too weak, we will strengthen them.”

Two years on and the nine measures have failed to deliver the protections they promised or close loopholes that would enable further poor treatment of seafarers.

Due to one ongoing legal loophole that the government promised it would close, P&O Ferries has been paying some crew members less than half the UK minimum wage.

An analysis of payslips by ITV News and the Guardian, revealed that agency workers for P&O Ferries have been, in some cases, earning £4.87 an hour, less than the £5.15 an hour that the company had suggested was its lowest pay rate, and well below the minimum wage of £10.42 an hour. Many crew members are reportedly working 12-hour shifts, and do not get a day off for months. One employee said the working conditions were like being ‘in jail.’

Without adequate action at government level, a campaign has been launched calling on the current and future governments to take action to prevent another P&O Ferries’ scandal.

Launched by the global trade union Nautilus and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT), the campaign notes how the government’s Seafarer’s Wages Act, introduced in 2023, requires operators to pay crew at least the National Minimum Wage for work within UK waters. However, the Act does nothing to prevent P&O Ferries and other operators from hiring agency seafarers on low rates of pay and roster patterns, even in the Channel.

The unions also warn how legal loopholes in the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which have been exploited by P&O Ferries, have not been closed.

“Employment conditions for P&O Ferries agency crew have further deteriorated, fire and re-hire has not been banned and the government has continued to spend taxpayers’ money on P&O Ferries,” the campaign states.

The unions are calling for a mandatory Seafarers Charter, for legal loopholes to be closed, for there to be a new deal for seafarers, for fair pay agreements on international ferry routes to be introduced, and for fire and rehire to be outlawed.

Over 52,000 people have had added their names to the petition calling for action to be taken to prevent another P&O Ferries’ jobs massacre.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

The post Over 50,000 sign petition calling to close legal loophole that subjects seafarers to appalling work conditions appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate.

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