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P&O has been accused of paying seafarers just £1.80 an hour


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A union has accused P&O of planning to restart services in Dover with staff who are being paid just £1.80 an hour.

The RMT issued a statement today suggesting the company, which is being looked into by the government after it sacked 800 staff last week, is "exploiting" the seafarers brought into replace them.

One of the three P&O ferries that is docked for the next few days. Picture: Barry Goodwin
One of the three P&O ferries that is docked for the next few days. Picture: Barry Goodwin

On Thursday, the shock announcement was made to staff on board the ships at 11am and they were given just five minutes to get their stuff and leave.

Protests at the port followed on Friday and the government announced the firm could be facing unlimited fines for their actions.

Today, general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The news that the seafarers now on ships in British ports are to be paid 2.38 dollars an hour is a shocking exploitation of those Seafarers and another gut-wrenching betrayal of those who have been sacked.

“The rule of law and acceptable norms of decent employment and behaviour have completely broken down beneath the white cliffs of Dover and in other ports yet five days into this national crisis the government has done nothing to stop it.

“These ships of shame must not be allowed to sail. The government has to step in now and take control before it’s too late.”

This comes ahead of an emergency vote in the House of Commons this afternoon, demanding an end to the 'fire and rehire' or workers.

Trade union members march in support of the 800 sacked P&O ferry workers, from Maritime House in Dover to the entrance to the Port of Dover..Picture: Barry Goodwin
Trade union members march in support of the 800 sacked P&O ferry workers, from Maritime House in Dover to the entrance to the Port of Dover..Picture: Barry Goodwin

Kent County Council and Dover District Council will hold talks today to examine ways in which local employers may be able to offer assistance should the redundancies be confirmed.

Cllr Derek Murphy, KCC cabinet member for economic development, said some employers had already come forward to provide support but stressed that the authorities were in the early stages of drawing up plans.

He said: "We're looking at a plan to get local employers in the area to offer jobs to to crews who have been laid off. We want to get that in place as quickly as possible. I cannot emphasize how shocked we were to hear this decision.

"There was no forewarning or notification so we are having to act as quickly as we can. I believe there are several employers who have already come forward offering jobs.”

'This is a clear sign of exploitation and we are very concerned...'

But he underlined it was too early to say what steps could be taken to provide support.

“We will do the best we can acting at a local level to the best of our ability using the resources we have locally. Let's get all the facts on the table so we can start to make proper and constructive decisions. What we don't want to do is raise expectations.”

The task force could be based partly on a similar group that was set up over a decade ago to help employees who had lost their jobs when Pfizer announced it was to to leave its headquarters in Sandwich.

The government set up the Sandwich Economic Development Taskforce in 2011, which had some success in mitigating the impact of that decision.

Anti-Slavery International’s Private Sector Advisor, Eloise Savill, said: "We are shocked to hear allegations that P&O Ferries have hired new staff on as little as £1.80 per hour as reported by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union.

"This is a clear sign of exploitation and we are very concerned that replacing the crew with staff from a third-party agency will reduce oversight and transparency around recruitment, working conditions and pay.

“We reiterate our call for a new Business, Human Rights and Environment Act, one which would introduce a legal requirement for firms to take responsibility to identify and ensure workers are given the basic dignities of safe working conditions, reasonable hours and decent pay."

P&O Ferries has been contacted for comment.

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