Ministers have “done nothing” to stop another P&O Ferries, unions warn on 2 year anniversary of mass sacking

TUC, Nautilus and RMT join forces to call for a mandatory seafarers’ charter and boost to workers’ rights

18 Mar 2024| News

The government has “done nothing” to stop another P&O Ferries from happening, according to unions.

The TUC, Nautilus and RMT have issued a joint statement on the 2 year anniversary of the mass sacking – warning about the prospect of another P&O Ferries scandal as a result of government failures on workers’ rights.

In the joint statement, the TUC, Nautilus and RMT warn another P&O Ferries scandal is on the cards as a result of government inaction:

“Two years have since passed – but the government has done nothing to stop another P&O Ferries scandal. Despite admitting to acting illegally, P&O Ferries have faced no sanctions and have seemingly been let off the hook.”

The unions say ministers have failed to act:

“Having feigned outrage at P&O Ferries’ actions, ministers have reneged on their promise to clamp down on bad bosses, failed to deliver an Employment Bill and failed to close the legal loopholes exploited by P&O Ferries.

And the paltry reforms that they have pushed forward fall far short of what’s needed. P&O Ferries priced-in the illegal mass sacking of hundreds of seafarers. Their bosses at DP World sanctioned the breaking of UK law and could afford to do so.

The government’s feeble code of practice on fire and rehire only makes breaking the law a bit more expensive, which will do nothing to deter deep-pocketed rogue employers.

And their much-trumpeted seafarers’ welfare charter isn’t mandatory – so bad employers can just ignore it, safe in the knowledge they will face zero consequences.”

And they call for a mandatory seafarers’ charter as well as stronger workers’ rights across the board:

“This is why we need an Employment Act, such as a New Deal for Working People – like Labour is proposing – to ensure that everybody is treated with dignity and respect in a safe workplace.

It is welcome that Labour have already responded to the P&O Ferries’ sackings by committing to a mandatory seafarers’ charter to protect seafarer’s employment and conditions. That charter, including provisions for a fair pay agreement as envisaged in the New Deal, would be a gamechanger.

To prevent another P&O Ferries we need that commitment introduced as soon as possible.

It would help to level the playing field for good employers while supporting quality seafarer employment.

For too long parts of our labour market have been like the wild west – with many seafarers particularly exposed to hyper-exploitation and a lack of enforceable rights and unsafe employment conditions.

It’s time to drag our outdated employment laws into the 21st century. Without this, another P&O Ferries scandal is on the cards.”

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The Conservative Party are the P&O party. What happened at P&O Ferries two years ago was a national scandal. It should have marked a new chapter in workers’ rights.

But Tory ministers sat on their hands. And the reforms they are bringing in – like the code of practice on fire and rehire – aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

It’s time for a new deal on workers’ rights – like Labour is proposing – to make our labour laws fit for the 21st century and give all workers the protection they need. And we need to boost pay and conditions in the ferries sector for good, with the introduction of a mandatory seafarers’ charter.

That’s how you make sure another P&O Ferries scandal never happens again.”

Mick Lynch, RMT General Secretary, said:

“In the two years since P&O Ferries’ shocking attack on 786 seafarers’ jobs, the Conservative Government has completely failed to punish the perpetrators or even close the legal loopholes that were exploited and priced up by P&O’s wealthy owners in Dubai.

We need a mandatory Seafarers Charter as part of a new deal for workers, with fair pay agreements at the heart of a revival of Ratings jobs and skills in the UK maritime industry, including on international ferries and in the offshore energy supply chain, both of which are critical elements of our future economic security.

RMT will continue to fight tooth and nail for stronger seafarer rights through employment law reform, sorting out the impotent Insolvency Service, an end to all forms of discrimination against seafarers, safer working practices, excluding DP World from taxpayer support and scrapping all anti-trade union laws.”

Mark Dickinson, General Secretary of Nautilus, said:

“In the aftermath of the unlawful actions of P&O Ferries, the government set themselves a specific test – to ensure this can never happen again. By that single measure, they have failed.

We need a mandatory seafarers charter alongside bilateral arrangements to enforce decent pay and conditions reflective of local standards, not international minimums.

We need an employment bill to close the legal loopholes and once and for all outlaw fire and rehire. Our nation’s maritime professionals, the backbone of our economy, deserve better.”

You can read the full statement here.