P&O using foreign agency workers ‘earning £1.81 an hour’ after 800 UK staff sacked, union claims

P&O continues to face backlash after hundreds of workers fire over Zoom call

Aisha Rimi
Monday 21 March 2022 14:22 GMT
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P&O Ferries workers are told they have lost their jobs in video call

Foreign agency workers hired to replace sacked P&O Ferries crews are being paid jus £1.81 an hour, a union has claimed.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), which represented many of the 800 staff fired without notice last week, alleged their replacements are being paid well below the UK minimum wage of £8.91 per hour.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “The news that the seafarers now on ships in British ports are to be paid 2.38 dollars (£1.81) an hour is a shocking exploitation of those Seafarers and another gut-wrenching betrayal of those who have been sacked.

“The rule of law and acceptable norms of decent employment and behaviour have completely broken down beneath the white cliffs of Dover and in other ports yet five days into this national crisis the government has done nothing to stop it.

“These ships of shame must not be allowed to sail. The government has to step in now and take control before it’s too late.”

P&O has been widely criticised for the mass sackings
P&O has been widely criticised for the mass sackings (PA)

Labour MP Karl Turner described the situation as grotesquely exploitative’, The Times reports.

He told : “What P&O has accepted previously in meetings with me and the RMT, they’ve said $2.40 an hour (£1.81).

“That was only admitted by them because we got some correspondence from the P&O management a couple of years ago which was leaked to the RMT. We produced those documents to ministers at the time.”

Demonstrators will gather outside the London offices of P&O Ferries owner DP World on Monday afternoon, before marching to Parliament.

Also on Monday afternoon, Labour will force an emergency vote in the Commons demanding that the Government takes action to outlaw the so-called fire and rehire of staff, which involves making workers redundant before giving them their jobs back with worse terms and conditions.

Companies using UK ports often register ships in other countries, allowing them to pay lower wages. For example, some vessels operated by P&O Ferries are flagged in Cyprus.

Protests have been held at P&O offices and terminals across the country against the sackings (PA)
Protests have been held at P&O offices and terminals across the country against the sackings (PA) (PA Wire)

When the firm informed staff on Thursday they were losing their jobs, it told them it was aiming to halve crewing costs.

P&O Ferries claims the £100 million of losses caused by the pandemic was the reasoning behind the move, although its owner, Dubai-based DP World, reported record profits of £2.9 billion this month.

After hundreds of staff were made redundant, Downing Street warned P&O that they were “looking very closely” at the legality of the situation.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are looking very closely at the actions that this company has taken to see whether they acted within the rules.

“Once we have concluded that, we will decide what the ramifications are. Obviously, there are a lot of valid questions in relation to existing contracts.”

Rishi Sunak also confirmed on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show that the government was reviewing all its contracts with P&O.

The party will also call on the Government to suspend contracts with DP World until the matter with P&O Ferries is resolved.

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “What I want to see is those workers reinstated to their jobs, as they should never (have) been dismissed from them.

“I want to see the Government take action here to ban this fire and rehire, which is the cause of this in the first place.

“There’s a vote on that this afternoon. So, what I don’t want to hear is ministers, Government ministers, complaining about what P&O have done.

“Now they’ve got the chance to do something about it, vote this afternoon for reinstatement and banning fire and rehire.”

P&O declined to provide a comment on the pay claims.

But in a previous statement on the sackings, a spokesperson said: “We know that for our staff this redundancy came without warning or prior consultation, and we fully understand that this has caused distress for them and their families.

““We took this difficult decision as a last resort and only after full consideration of all other options, but, ultimately, we concluded that the business wouldn’t survive without fundamentally changed crewing arrangements, which in turn would inevitably result in redundancies.

“We have offered enhanced severance terms to those affected to properly and promptly compensate them for the lack of warning and consultation.

“The changes we’ve made bring us into line with standard industry practice.”

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