P&O scandal sparks ‘race to the bottom’ as rivals demand ‘level playing field’ over pay


Exclusives:

Danish ferry firm DFDS has demanded a ‘level playing field’ over seafarers’ pay with Unions fearing more British jobs may be lost if the P&O sacking is not overturned

Rival DFDS has told Transport Secretary Grant Shapps it will be unable to compete if P&O’s move to pay wages aslow as £5.50 an hour is not overturned

The P&O mass sackings scandal has sparked a “race to the bottom” among ferry operators – and put thousands more British jobs at risk, union leaders have warned.

Today it emerged a second firm could also sack its crew and replace them with cheaper agency workers if Boris Johnson fails to block P&O’s sudden dismissal of 800 staff.

DFDS, which employs 2,700 crew members, lorry drivers and office staff in the UK, has told Transport Secretary Grant Shapps it will be unable to compete if P&O’s move to pay wages as low as £5.50 an hour is not overturned.

The Danish firm has called for a “level playing field” so it can avoid sacking UK staff on its cross-Channel services and bringing in overseas workers at rates below the minimum wage.

A spokesman for the company said: “DFDS has written to the Secretary of State asking for a meeting to discuss how a level playing field on the Channel can be achieved for an operator like DFDS, whose crewing model employs British seafarers directly.”

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Calls grow for P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite to resign
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Image:

Julian Hamilton/Sunday Mirror)

The spokesman declined to comment on the possible implications for staff or the contents of the letter.

Mick Lynch, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, expressed concern for the £8bn industry.

He said: “P&O have kicked off a race to the bottom on our ships. And dithering by government over P&O’s illegal act is threatening more jobs at competitors and catastrophe for UK seafarers.

“We want guarantees from ministers the Government is taking steps to keep members’ jobs, collective bargaining arrangements and UK registration on the DFDS fleet.”

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister branded P&O’s actions illegal. And Mr Shapps said the Government would “make sure P&O do a U-turn”







A demonstration by the RMT union outside the main Port of Liverpool entrance on Merseyside
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Julian Hamilton/Sunday Mirror)

But there are doubts about the power it has to reverse the sackings as the workers were registered abroad. Both Mr Johnson and Mr Shapps have also called on shamed P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite to quit after he admitted the company had deliberately broken the law.

He told stunned MPs at a joint select committee that the firm had no other option if it was to survive.

DFDS runs services from Dover, Newhaven and Newcastle to Amsterdam, Calais, Dunkirk and Dieppe.







The European Causeway vessel operated by P&O Ferries which has been detained in Larne for being ‘unfit to sail’
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Image:

PA)

An industry insider said one option being considered by the firm would be to scrap the short-haul model of employment currently used on Channel crossings for a less stringent international shipping arrangement where employing cheaper agency staff is the norm.

Tonight Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said: “P&O has produced a blueprint for rogue employers to slash wages and the Tories have done nothing to stop them.”

The Department for Transport declined to comment further than Mr Shapps’ promise of action.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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