P&O Ferries: Transport Secretary tells boss to reinstate 800 sacked workers
Grant Shapps said seafarers deserved respect
Grant Shapps has written to P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite to give him "one final opportunity" to reinstate the 800 workers sacked by the ferry company earlier this month.
The transport secretary told Hebblethwaitethe that new legislation will require all ferry companies operating out of UK ports to pay the national minimum wage - meaning the proposed average pay of £5.50 per hour could be unlawful.
Safety concerns aboard vessels have been raised by former staff, after it was alleged the replacement crew was agency workers, being paid as little as £1.80 an hour.
The P&O boss, who earns a base salary of £350,000 a year, confirmed during a select committee hearing last Thursday that the average wage among replacement employees on P&O vessels will be under minimum wage.
He told MPs the wage levels were "competitive", and added: "Where we are required to pay national minimum wage, we will pay national minimum wage.”
My letter to P&O boss makes clear that this government will not stand by while the requirement to treat seafarers with due respect and fairness is brazenly ignored. pic.twitter.com/4ozBsydJPC
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) March 28, 2022
Last week, Hebblethwaite admitted a decision to sack crew on 17 March without consulting the unions broke the law - but said he would do it all again.
"We chose not to consult," he told the Transport Select Committee. "It was our assessment that the change was of such magnitude that no union could accept our proposal."
The chief executive has previously denied breaking British labour laws because the ships are registered outside of the UK.
Hebblethwaite said the firm had informed authorities in Barbados, Bermuda and Cyprus on 17 March where the ships are registered, and was not under any obligation to inform the UK government.
He claimed the sackings were necessary or P&O would have been unable to continue operating - adding: "I would make the same decision again, I'm afraid."
P&O sparked outrage after sacking hundreds of staff members, some of who had worked for the company inter-generationally, over Zoom.
During the select committee hearing, Conservative MP Paul Howell accused the company of being "morally bankrupt", while Labour chair Darren Jones asked Hebblethwaite if he considered himself a "shameless criminal".
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) March 24, 2022