The British government is working with its European partners, including France, on a minimum wage for workers on European shipping routes following the recent layoff of 800 workers by ferry company P&O.
“I have already contacted my colleagues in France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany to raise the issue of a minimum wage for maritime workers on direct routes between our countries,” Transport Minister Grant Shapps said in Parliament on Wednesday, adding that he had already received a “very positive response” from the French side. “Much maritime law is governed by international rules, obligations and treaties, which means that we cannot hope to solve these problems alone,” he said, specifying his intention to establish “minimum wage corridors” on intra-European maritime traffic.
A number of measures
Overnight dismissal on 17 March of 800 seafarers by P&O, which is replacing them with outsourced workers who are paid an average of £5.5 (€6.5) an hour, well below the UK minimum wage, which rises to £9.5 a day fool continues. make a splash in the UK.
On Wednesday, the Minister for Transport unveiled a set of measures before the British Parliament to ensure working conditions and safety on ferries traveling to or from the UK or within the country. In particular, he plans to give British ports the right to deny access on Wednesday to ferry companies that do not pay their workers the minimum wage.
The minister warned that controls would be tightened both in terms of working conditions and safety on board, while maritime authorities have in recent days stopped two P&O ships, one at Dover and the other at Larne in Northern Ireland, due to shortcomings. in the documentation. , emergency equipment and crew training. In addition, companies that failed to make reasonable efforts to negotiate ahead of layoffs to rehire cheaper workers could receive a 25 percent increase in severance pay, Grant Shapps announced.
“Too little, too late,” Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT trade union, was quick to say in a press release, urging the government to “faster and more radical reforms to save British seafarers”. “The prime minister has repeatedly said in parliament that the government will take legal action to keep jobs” for P&O seafarers “but he didn’t keep his word,” he lamented.
Wave of protest
The transport secretary, however, on Wednesday asked the government agency responsible for intervening in misconduct cases by business leaders to consider whether P&O ferry company boss Peter Hebblethwaite should be removed from his post. The latter, who rejected calls for the government’s resignation, also rejected the hypothesis of rehiring 800 laid-off employees, believing that this would lead to “the collapse of the company with the irretrievable loss of 2,200 additional jobs.” P&O continues to say its current cost model is unsustainable and the company, hit hard by the pandemic and the collapse of international travel, is losing £100m a year.
London also announced on Wednesday its intention to advocate with the International Labor Organization for a set of common principles for maritime workers, including a minimum wage and a global framework for training seafarers. Grant Shapps has again announced reforms to make it easier for ships to register in the United Kingdom and to make the British flag more attractive.
Nearly 200 international maritime trade unions and 10,000 workers in the sector wrote Wednesday to DP World, P&O’s parent company in Dubai, protesting the forced layoff of 800 seafarers. A new demonstration on the subject is scheduled for Thursday in Liverpool.