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Government actions not enough to force P&O Ferries rethink and prevent seafarer exploitation

9 May 2022

The UK government will outline plans to bring forward legislation intending to extend coverage of the national minimum wage to seafarers operating in UK waters.

This move is part of the Transport Secretary's nine-point plan 'that will force it [P&O Ferries] to fundamentally rethink its decision and send a clear message to the maritime industry that we will not allow this to happen again.'

Nautilus International welcomes moves to extend the rights of seafarers working on ferries around the UK.

Seafarers working on ferries between UK ports, for example, Larne to Cairnryan, are already bound by the national minimum wage. Domestic legislation enforcing the national minimum wage on ferries engaged on international routes to and from the UK, whilst a welcome move, will not prevent the actions of P&O Ferries and others from destabilising the UK ferry sector and threatening the employment of more UK resident seafarers.

Without urgent complimentary legislative measures to enforce the 'minimum wage corridors' proposed by the Secretary of State as part of his package, UK legislation alone would not ensure seafarers working on ferries on international voyages are consistently paid at least the minimum wage. International cooperation in this respect is essential.

Nautilus International has consistently reminded the government that P&O Ferries exposed much more than lack of minimum wage coverage. Our members, who P&O Ferries contemptuously sacked, were covered by Union negotiated rates of pay reflective of their duties and responsibilities. 

Nautilus International, alongside the RMT and industry representatives have presented to government our 'Fair Ferries Strategy.'

This proposed legislative framework would create minimum employment and safety standards in collective bargaining agreements across the ferries sector. Our proposals would create a genuine level playing field by raising standards, reversing the race to the bottom that P&O Ferries have exacerbated. 

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Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson

Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson said: 'We are glad that government want to ensure the despicable actions of P&O Ferries can never happen again. Unfortunately, the Queen's Speech will not address the complexities of maritime employment and end the ability for maritime employers to exploit their maritime professionals.

'The amendments to the Harbour's Act government will bring forward simply would not meet the desired outcome of forcing a re-think from P&O Ferries and in ensuring this can never happen again.

'Nautilus has put forward concrete proposals in the form of our "Fair Ferries Strategy" developed with industry, that would level up the ferries sector and stop P&O Ferries from using an exploitative crewing model. If government is serious about forcing P&O Ferries to rethink and ensuring this never happens again it must introduce legislation, based on our Fair Ferries Strategy, to protect jobs and ensure safety on ferries operating in UK waters.' 

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