Many of us have strongly felt that the recent behaviour of P&O Ferries in how they have treated some 800 loyal and hard-working members of staff is appalling.
Such circumstances require swift action and I am grateful to the Transport Secretary for getting on and standing up for British workers.
The measures put forward will provide a strong deterrent to any employers even considering making a similar decision.
The Government will bring forward new legislation to ban ferries that do not pay their workers the National Minimum Wage from docking at British ports. This will mean that all ferry staff working in and out of British ports, and when in UK waters, will earn at least the National Minimum Wage; closing a legal loophole between UK and international maritime law that P&O Ferries ruthlessly exploited.
To help ensure seafarers are protected straight away, the Transport Secretary has instructed ports to refuse entry to ferries not paying workers the National Minimum Wage immediately; replicating the effect the new laws will have when introduced in the coming weeks.
HM Revenue & Customs will continue to target enforcement activity, investigating any ferry operators that they suspect do not pay their workers the National Minimum Wage.
This action from Government means that more than 21,000 seafarers across the UK will no longer be undercut. Indeed, I note that the Department for Transport confirms that this puts the UK ahead of any EU state in its protection on pay.
In response to the Government’s actions, the Insolvency Service have now confirmed that formal criminal and civil investigations into P&O Ferries have commenced into the circumstances surrounding these redundancies.
A renewed focus on the welfare and training elements of the maritime strategy is welcome. £30 million is already being invested through the Maritime Training Fund with £2.3 million being invested to support skills, training and welfare of seafarers.
Additionally, Government has called on the International Maritime Organisation to hold an international summit on workers’ rights at sea, and to revise the status quo on seafarers’ basic pay rates around the world.
Britain has also contacted France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark to propose bilateral agreements that would ensure routes between the countries become ‘minimum wage corridors’ where nationals from either country must be paid an agreed minimum wage.
As a nation we must be clear that British workers are not expendable. Rather, they make up the very backbone of our country.
These measures will not only give maritime workers enhanced rights, but will go to counter any gains which P&O may have hoped they would make.
Any companies using British waters and British ports must accept British laws.
Henry Smith MP