P&O latest as ferry firm accused of trying to cut pay of new agency staff

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The long-running saga of P&O's troubled attempts to restructure its staffing model appears far from over, despite the company managing to get its Larne-Cairnryan service properly up and running again. The ferry operator still does not have any Dover-Calais sailings operational, while it is alleged the company had failed in attempt to push the wages of its lower-cost agency staff even further.

P&O latest as ferry firm accused of trying to cut pay of new agency staff
Photo: ThMilherou / pixabay.com / Pixabay Licence

On the positive side, P&O’s Spirit of Britain ferry passed its Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspection on Friday. It is hoped the vessel could begin sailing as soon as tomorrow. In addition to that, the ferry operator’s Larne-Cairnryan service has now been restored in full.

On the other hand, the Pride of Kent, which also operates on the Dover-Calais route, remains grounded after failing an inspection. On top of this, the two other P&O ferries that normally operate on the route, the Pride of Canterbury and Spirit of France, are awaiting inspection before they can sail again.

Daren Proctor, RMT National Secretary in Maritime, told Kent Live at the weekend that he doesn’t see P&O Dover-Calais services restarting anytime soon:

“I don’t anticipate them [P&O Ferries] sailing from Dover anytime soon as vessels are still being inspected and my intelligence suggests that they are not yet ready,” said Mr Proctor.

Meanwhile, the RMT Union also claims it has received an email from one of the new P&O agency staff, in which it is alleged agency employees were being pressured to sign new contracts on lower pay.

According to the BBC, who have seen the email, the whistleblower who wrote to RMT said staff were being forced to work without contracts following the expiration of their existing short-term agreements. The employee also alleged that P&O had lost documents.

In part of the email, the agency worker wrote: “They don’t care about our rights. They try to give us less money. We are desperate.”

The RMT’s Daren Proctor also told the BBC that he had heard of agency staff being brought in on contracts lasting 1-2 months, then being told they must accept lower terms if they want to stay.

Readers may recall that during an appearance at the UK Transport Select Committee hearing last month, Peter Hebblethwaite, CEO of P&O, confirmed that the company’s new agency staff would be paid just £5.50 per hour. This is above the ITF Minimum Wage for Seafarers, but also well below the UK minimum wage of £9.50 that has applied since April 1st.

Nevertheless, the Daily Mirror writes that some crew are paid £748 a month for doing 40-hours per week, which actually works out at around £4.30 an hour.

If the staff working onboard the ferries were to be paid even lower than that, P&O would be getting shamefully close to the ITF Minimum Wage for Seafarers. However, the company has since rowed back on the plan, a move that was welcomed by UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps late last night, who tweeted:

“Whilst it’s good P&O have reversed further attempt at a pay cut, they MUST go much further and pay the minimum wage like all UK businesses. We will legislate to force them, but they could win back some much needed credibility by acting now.”

Finally, although P&O’s Dover-Calais services remain suspended today, the company confirmed that it can rebook its customers onto a DFDS sailing instead.

Photo: ThMilherou / pixabay.com / Pixabay Licence

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