‘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,’ RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said yesterday.
He was speaking after the RMT had forced P&O Ferries into an embarrassing U-turn after trying to reduce agency workers’ rates of pay.
The RMT had earlier received reports of agency workers being forced to sign new contracts that reduced their pay to drastically low levels.
Lynch said: ‘Due to the pressure from RMT seafarers, P&O have been prevented from further cutting the pay of vulnerable agency crew.
‘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.’
The RMT said yesterday that it had received reports of new workers at Dover being asked to sign new contracts, replacing ones they had signed just weeks ago, on lower pay.
It reported P&O Ferries to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which ensured the new workers retained their wages.
But P&O Ferries claimed ‘no agency seafarers were asked to accept reduced wages’.
The company, which sacked 800 workers without notice via Zoom in a short recorded message last month, claimed that there were ‘no plans to change or reduce the wages’ of the new seafarers.
However, the RMT reported that a seafarer on the Spirit of Britain ferry at Dover, hired as a replacement for the sacked staff last month, contacted the union begging for help in a dispute over pay.
The union said the company is ‘trying to bring in an exploitative model, with the lowest possible standards they can get away with.’
The worker wrote: ‘They don’t care about our rights. They try to give us less money. We are desperate.’
The seafarer told the union they were being forced to work without contracts, after old ones had expired and that documents had also been lost by P&O Ferries.
‘This is my sixth day working without a contract, please help us!’ he said.
RMT National Secretary Darren Proctor, said: ‘P&O Ferries brought people in on a month contract, some on two-month contracts, and then told them that they have to accept lower pay rates if they want to stay on.
‘P&O is undermining safety and creating a lowest possible denominator in ferry standards.’