Freight News, Sea

Government fast tracks ferry worker minimum wage rules

[ March 30, 2022   //   ]

The Transport Secretary said on 30 March that he would he will bring forward new legislation to ban ferries that do not pay their workers the National Minimum Wage (NMW) from UK ports, following P&O Ferries’ summary sacking of 800 workers.

Grant Shapps said that all ferry staff working in and out of UK ports, and when in UK waters, will earn the NMW, closing a legal loophole between UK and international maritime law that P&O Ferries “ruthlessly exploited”.

The Transport Secretary said he had instructed ports to refuse entry to ferries not paying workers the NMW on the same day, ahead of the introduction of the new laws in the coming weeks. HMRC would also continue to target its enforcement activity on any ferry operators suspected of not paying the minimum wage.

The government has called on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to hold an international summit to discuss workers’ rights at sea and to revise the status quo on seafarers’ basic pay rates around the world.

The Transport Secretary has also written to France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark to propose bilateral agreements that would ensure routes between the countries become ‘minimum wage corridors’.

Grant Shapps said: “We can boast some of the highest maritime standards in the world, but for too long some employers have managed to avoid showing workers the most basic respect. Ensuring a fair wage for our seafarers means UK workers are not undercut by employers and it reiterates the UK flag as one of the most respected in the world.

“P&O’s behaviour has appalled the nation and I want to make it absolutely clear we will not tolerate their actions or allow anyone else to follow suit – and this package of measures will act as a strong deterrent.”

He added that he had also asked the chief executive of the Insolvency Service to consider whether P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite should be disqualified as a director after he admitted that the company had broken the law.

In response, Stena Line executive director, Ian Hampton, said: the Swedish-owned Irish and North Sea operator welcomed the package of to address inequalities for seafarers on ferry services to and from the UK.

He added: “We have a long-held strategy of employing local seafarers onboard our vessels. Today’s announcement protects that strategy and in addition creates the necessary consistency and equality needed across the sector.

The government also said it is launching a new recruitment website for seafarers and maritime employers to connect to specifically target P&O Ferries workers made redundant, as well as the sector at large.