P&O Ferries has today been accused of blatantly abusing the Covid-19 crisis by replacing UK seafarers with agency crew from the Philippines for £4.50 per hour.
The Dover based company is in the grip of a financial crisis and is making 1,100 people redundant from across the business.
RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said the replacement of UK crew with foreign workers applies to the Pride of Hull, which operates from Hull to Zeebrugge.
It is believed there are no plans to do the same with crew serving the Dover to Calais route which will be hardest hit with an expected 614 ratings facing redundancy.
In a press statement, Mr Cash said: “Rather than working with the unions to adjust the furlough scheme, P&O is replacing 60 UK ratings on the Pride of Hull with 57 agency crew from the Philippines who are paid £4.50 per hour.
"This is a blatant abuse of the current crisis."
The furloughing of staff comes under the government's Jobs Retention Scheme initiated to tackle the economic threat to businesses from the coronavirus lockdown and in the ferry industry's case, the travel ban.
P&O Ferries stood down 1,100 staff in March, followed by 300 more in April when it laid up three ships.
The government has extended the scheme until the end of October to safeguard jobs.
But the company announced it was making 1,100 redundant at the beginning of May despite receiving taxpayer help.
It faced criticism in April when we revealed Dubai owner DP World was paying $322million in dividends to shareholders.
“P&O Ferries must bring back furloughed UK seafarers to cover all vacancies on the Hull-Rotterdam and their other UK routes that qualify for the Critical Freight Grant.
"Exploiting Filipino crew at the cost of seafarers and the economy in Hull or anywhere else is totally unacceptable.
“Government action is urgently needed to force P&O Ferries to drop their outrageous redundancy plans and work with the trade unions and ministers on a rescue package to save seafarer jobs and skills in Hull and Dover.”
Mr Cash, who started a petition to Boris Johnson to save jobs, claims the foreign agency crew will receive rates of pay below the National Minimum Wage and for contracts that require 12 hour days, seven days a week for up to six months.
P&O Ferries declined to comment but a source said the company will continue to keep UK seafarers as the mainstay of their workforce on this route.
Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elpicke has been asked to comment.