TUC calls for changes to bill to help seafarers after P&O Ferries scandal | P&O Ferries

The Trades Union Congress has urged the government to make crucial changes to legislation planned to help seafarers after the P&O Ferries scandal, warning there are still loopholes that unscrupulous employers could exploit.

P&O Ferries has admitted deliberately flouting the law by laying off 786 seafarers and replacing them with poorly paid agency crew last March. Despite public outrage and condemnation and promises of action from government ministers, the Dubai-owned operator has not received any fines or penalties – even though its chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, told MPs that the company had knowingly decided to violate labor law.

Ministers instructed the Insolvency Service to look into the case, initially warning that P&O faced an “unlimited fine”. However, the Insolvency Service decided that it could not prosecute.

In July, the Department for Transport introduced a Seafarers’ Wages Act in response to the scandal, aimed at ensuring ships working regularly in British waters are paid at least the minimum wage.

But after a legal briefing from the Insolvency Service to maritime unions outlining why P&O has not been sued, the TUC has called on the government to close critical gaps in the legislation.

In a letter to Lady Vere, the transport minister responsible for the maritime sector, he called for changes that would resolve uncertainty over whether, in the P&O example, the redundant crews were working legally in Britain, although whether they operate from UK Channel or North Sea ports and live in the UK. British P&O seafarers were paid through a P&O offshore office in Jersey, and ships flew the flags of Cyprus, the Bahamas or Bermuda.

Although P&O had not notified the Secretary of State or the ferry’s flag state 30 days prior, as required by law for mass layoffs, the Insolvency Service said it had not initiated criminal proceedings against P&O due to a “lack of legal clarity”. , for the purposes of trade union law and applicable employment law, “if the dismissed seafarers worked outside Great Britain”.

Frances O’Grady, the outgoing TUC General Secretary, said: “The P&O scandal has shown us the worst of cowboy capitalism.

“Despite behaving like corporate gangsters, P&O Ferries has been allowed to get away with it due to lax labor laws – and its owner has even reaped eye-popping profits from mass layoffs.

“Instead of attacking workers’ right to strike, the government should put in place adequate protections for workers who are at the mercy of bad bosses.

“Ministers must use the Seafarers’ Bill to close loopholes that have allowed P&O Ferries to escape criminal prosecution. Tinkering around the edges will not be enough.

P&O Ferries continued to operate services from Britain as before, while its owner, Dubai-based DP World, is expected to operate free ports designed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Other operators such as Stena Line have since spoken of pressure to follow suit by cutting wages, observing that P&O has set an international precedent.

O’Grady added: “Let’s be clear. Without stricter regulation, another P&O-type scandal is on the cards.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘We have reacted quickly and decisively to P&O Ferries’ appalling treatment of its staff, announcing a nine-point plan to improve pay and conditions and introducing a seafarers’ wages bill to ensure those with close ties to the UK are paid at least the equivalent of the national minimum wage.

“We continue to work with our European neighbours, trade unions and industry partners to further protect seafarers’ welfare and pay and will formally respond to this letter in due course.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *