European Trade Union groups have criticised P&O Ferries' major shareholder DP World for using the pandemic to permanently drive down workers' pay and conditions.
The European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) acting general secretary Livia Spera warned the Dubai-based owner that the 'ETF and its affiliates will continue to stand together for fair working conditions and equal treatment.
'We deplore P&O Ferries' decision to present a list of proposals for permanent changes to jobs and terms and conditions during the current, extreme period brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
'ETF is clear that the pandemic must not be used as an excuse for companies to neglect their obligation to protect local jobs and communities, local conditions or health, safety and economic standards of key workers including seafarers, especially when continuing public funding has been made available to businesses,' she said in a joint letter with six other transport unions.
P&O Ferries wants to renegotiate workers' rates of pay to a 'more sustainable level', revise recall payments, reduce occupational sick pay, revise the redundancy formula to reduce to statutory pay, introduce lay off clauses in its Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA), introduce a ‘no strike clause’, remove long service benefits and remove the profit share scheme.
The company also wants to introduce a two weeks on/two weeks off roster on its short sea route.
ETF urged P&O to work with the recognised trade unions towards developing a sustainable strategy that supports local employment and skills for the long term, instead of taking short-term advantage of the coronavirus crisis to cut jobs, terms and conditions through any extension of the 'low cost' crewing model.
P&O has been looking to find around £250 million to ensure it can come through the current crisis. The firm has asked the UK government for £150m of support. It is also seeking support from DP World. So far it has furloughed a total of about 1,400 seafarers, dockers and other staff in the UK, with the support of about £20m from UK taxpayers.
The ETF called on DP World to 'show a sense of social responsibility', saying ferry companies are 'integral to the modern supply chain and whenever they experience serious cash flow problems parent companies should not seek huge levels of support from taxpayers whilst paying out dividends. To do so puts at risk the provision of public services and the protection of essential workers' livelihoods during a global public health crisis.'
The letter was sent to P&O Ferries CEO Janette Bell and DP World CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem. It was signed by the ETF, Nautilus, GMB, RMT, Unite, FNV, ACV Transcom, and CFDT FGTE.