<p>The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has called for a public and commercial boycott of P&O Ferries (Gareth Fuller/PA)</p>

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has called for a public and commercial boycott of P&O Ferries (Gareth Fuller/PA)

P&O Ferries boycott called as union claims workers are being paid below minimum wage

Union says workers were paid £4.35 an hour

Helen Coffey
Tuesday 26 April 2022 15:17
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A union has called for a boycott of P&O Ferries, claiming the company has been paying workers just £4.35 an hour.

As of April 2022, the UK’s National Living Wage is set at £4.81 for 16 to 17-year-olds, £6.83 for 18 to 20-year-olds, £9.18 for 20 to 22-year-olds, and £9.50 for those aged 22 and over.

The RMT union alleges that it has seen evidence of agency workers, brought in last month to replace 800 seafaring staff who were fired without warning, being paid less than half the minimum wage.

“We have seen contracts of agency workers where they are being paid the equivalent of £4.35 an hour for 17 weeks’ work,” the RMT said. “This is less than half the current UK national minimum wage.”

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged both freight firms and passengers to book with P&O Ferries’ competitors in response.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) confirmed it had “fully investigated and upheld” a complaint from RMT regarding pay for crew onboard the Spirit of Britain ship.

One of the vessels detained by the MCA while it underwent a thorough safety inspection, the Spirit of Britain is finally due to resume Dover-Calais crossings this week.

RMT claims it was contacted by a “desperate” P&O worker whose pay had been reduced by £195 on their new contract.

However, P&O Ferries has said this was due to an “administrative misunderstanding”, and that employees’ pay has not been affected.

“There are no plans to change or reduce the wages of any of our agency seafarers and we have made clear that we will continue to comply fully with any national minimum wage obligations introduced by the UK government,” said a spokesperson for the brand.

They claimed the seafarer who contacted RMT had been “unaware of an appendix which included made clear that he would be entitled to an additional £195 a month, meaning that there was no change in his overall pay”.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Staffing ships with super-exploited agency staff is not just morally wrong, it undercuts those remaining ferry operators who do abide by union rates of pay and conditions and undermines passenger safety.”

It follows P&O Ferries’ shock decision to axe 786 staff on 17 March to replace them with cheaper agency worker.

CEO Peter Hebblethwaite admitted the company had broken employment law by making the redundancies without proper consultation, but said the move was the only way to keep the company afloat.

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