P&O Ferries plans to resume Dover-Calais sailings

·3-min read
P&O Ferries plans to resume operating between Dover and Calais in the coming days amid accusations it attempted to further reduce the wages of its seafarers (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
P&O Ferries plans to resume operating between Dover and Calais in the coming days amid accusations it attempted to further reduce the wages of its seafarers (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

P&O Ferries plans to resume operating between Dover and Calais in the coming days amid accusations that it attempted to further reduce the wages of its seafarers.

The PA news agency understands the company expects to restart sailings for freight customers by Wednesday, but does not anticipate carrying tourists until early next week.

On Monday morning the firm’s website began selling passenger tickets for cross-Channel sailings on its ship Spirit Of Britain from Wednesday.

The website later said there were “no sailings available for your selected dates”.

P&O Ferries has not operated between Dover and Calais since it sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice and replaced them with cheaper agency workers on March 17.

Spirit of Britain was cleared to sail on Friday (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
Spirit of Britain was cleared to sail on Friday (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

Spirit Of Britain was detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on April 12 after safety issues were found, but was cleared to sail on Friday.

Meanwhile, Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch claimed P&O Ferries has been “prevented from further cutting the pay of vulnerable agency crew” by “pressure from RMT seafarers”.

The firm, owned by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World, insisted no agency workers were asked to take a pay cut.

The RMT received reports of agency workers at Dover being asked to sign new contracts with reduced payments, according to the BBC.

Mr Lynch said: “There are no depths to which P&O and their Dubai owners at DP World will not sink to extract the maximum profit from ferry crews operating our vital maritime supply chains.

“This is underlined by the fact that, despite this U-turn, P&O are still only paying barely half of the UK minimum wage of £9.50 per hour.

“Ultimately, 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.

“The only way out of this latest crisis at the ferry operator is for the Government to take over the running of P&O vessels and reinstate directly employed staff on union rates of pay.”

A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: “No agency seafarers were asked to accept reduced wages.”

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

P&O Ferries

He went on: “There was an administrative misunderstanding around the contract presented to one individual who appears to have been unaware of an appendix which made clear that he would be entitled to an additional £195 a month, meaning that there was no change in his overall pay.

“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.”

The company’s chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, told MPs last month that the average pay of the agency crew is £5.50 per hour.

That is below the UK’s minimum wage but Mr Hebblethwaite said it is permitted under international maritime laws.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wants to create “minimum wage corridors” on ferry routes between the UK and other countries.

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