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P&O further wage cuts blocked

Ferry company P&O hit the headlines last month when it made 800 workers redundant via an online video call and with almost no notice.

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The legality of this move was questioned widely at the time, and the P&O chief executive admitted to a parliamentary select committee that it breached legislation which required the company to consult on mass redundancies.

Now P&O is in the news again following reports that it has tried to cut further the wages of the new agency workers that had been hired to replace the staff who were made redundant. Workers on board a P&O ship at Dover contacted the RMT union who reported the company to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). The MCA used their powers to block the cuts and ensured the workers retained their previous pay rates when being moved onto new contracts. P&O were reportedly keen to keep on the same workers rather than hiring new and untrained staff in order to ensure they met the compulsory safety requirements that would allow their ships to pass the necessary inspections so they could sail. P&O has denied, however, that there was any attempt to cut wages in the case concerned and said that the complaints stemmed from an ‘administrative misunderstanding’.

The agency workers were already reported to be being paid well below national minimum wage even prior to the new proposed cuts. However, P&O has claimed that the UK legislation does not apply to workers on ferries, and that their pay rates are consistent with international seafaring models. The government has threatened to introduce legislation that will allow ports to prevent entry by ships that do not pay a ‘fair wage’. Port authorities have expressed scepticism that any such plan would be workable, and P&O has previously claimed that similar moves would lead to the company’s collapse.

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Daniel Zona

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daniel.zona@collyerbristow.com



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