Port of Hull owner’s representative on ferry crew pay plans which union body calls ‘weak’
The body representing UK ports has called for proposals to prevent ferries with below-minimum-wage crews from docking to be proportionate after a leading union figure called them weak.
UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) chief executive Tim Morris told LDRS the government had shown it was willing to listen to industry after meeting the Maritime Minister. But Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said the government’s plans were unworkable and crew pay would only be improved with tougher jobs laws.
It comes as plans, unveiled in the Queen’s Speech today (Tuesday May 10), were drawn up to prevent redundancies like those at P&O made in March. Nearly 800 crew, including 82 in Hull, lost their jobs after P&O dismissed them without warning on Thursday March 17.
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They have been replaced by foreign agency workers earning less than the UK minimum wage. The Department for Transport said the new rules would be a big step forward in protecting the wages of tens of thousands of seafarers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We will stop at nothing to ensure that seafarers in UK ports are paid fairly. The shameful actions of P&O Ferries do not represent the principles of our leading shipping industry in the UK. world and amending the Seafarers’ Wage Protection Act is a clear signal to all that we will not tolerate the economic abuse of workers.
“We will protect all seafarers regularly sailing in and out of UK ports and ensure they are not deprived of employment. Ferry operators who regularly call at UK ports will face consequences if they fail to pay not their workers fairly.” P&O said it welcomed the government’s commitment to raise the minimum wage for all seafarers working in UK waters.
A spokesperson for the company said: ‘From the outset we have called for a level playing field over pay and conditions on UK ferry routes. Mr Shapps called on port owners in March to block the entry of ferries operated by crews earning less than minimum wage until laws could be passed.
But UKMPG’s Mr Morris said at the time the port operators he represented, including Associated British Ports (ABP) which runs King George Dock in Hull, could not apply UK labor law. The body’s chief executive said following a meeting with Maritimes Minister Robert Courts today that the government must listen to industry in a four-week consultation to come.
Mr Morris said: “While we remain concerned about the government’s response to the P&O Ferries situation, we recognize that a response is needed. The bottom line is that the government listens to industry and the demands placed on ports are proportionate and appropriate.
“Although in its early days, early signs indicate that the government is ready to listen and work constructively with industry and we hope that is what will happen.” But Ms O’Grady of the TUC said tougher employment laws were needed.
The General Secretary said: “This proposal is weak and probably unworkable. The Government has done nothing to tackle the most egregious labor abuses in years by P&O.
“Only tougher labor laws that strengthen worker protections and prevent companies from firing on the spot will prevent another P&O-type scandal.” The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has been contacted for comment.