P&O Ferries' agency staff 'did not know where LIFERAFTS were'April 25, 2022
P&O Ferries’ agency staff ‘did not know where LIFERAFTS were’: Officials seized two ships after foreign workers who replaced UK team ‘had NOT had proper training’ – but firm vows to resume Channel freight trips this week
- Firm hasn’t done Channel crossing since it sacked 800 seafarers without notice
- Ships impounded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over safety issues
- Travel expert Paul Charles said some crew ‘didn’t know where liferafts were’
P&O Ferries’ ships were prevented from sailing because their new poorly paid foreign crews had been trained so badly some did not even know where the liferafts were kept, it was claimed today – as the firm vowed to restart Channel freight trips this week.
The firm has not carried out a cross-Channel crossing since it sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice and replaced them with cheaper agency workers on March 17.
This has caused a lack of capacity on the crucial Dover-Calais route, contributing to large queues of lorries on coastbound roads in Kent.
One of its ships, the Spirit of Britain, was impounded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on April 12 over a string of safety issues, but has now been cleared for sailing. Another ship on the Dover-to-Calais route, the Pride Of Kent, remains in detention.
Today, travel expert Paul Charles said it was his understanding the ships had been impounded not due to actual physical deficiencies but because the new crews had not been trained well enough, with ‘some not even knowing where the liferafts were’.
An official inspection of another ship, European Causeway, listed an inability to deploy lifeboats or life rafts as one of 31 failures that had been identified. The boat normally operates between Cairnryan, Scotland, and Larne, Northern Ireland.
P&O Ferries expects to restart sailings for freight customers by Wednesday, but does not anticipate carrying tourists until early next week, it is understood d
The chief executive of P&O Ferries should be ‘behind bars’ after sacking 800 seafarers, a trade union president has said.
Peter Hebblethwaite replaced the workers with cheaper staff in order to protect the company, he said.
However, Pat Rafferty, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) president, said sacking the seafarers via Zoom last month was ‘gutter’ and ‘inhumane’.
Speaking at the annual conference in Aberdeen, Mr Rafferty said that the CEO should be put in jail to send a clear message to employers.
Mr Hebblethwaite rejected a request from Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, to reverse the decision. He also admitted his company broke the law by failing to consult unions about the redundancies. It is understood the business needed to cut costs to avoid collapse as it was losing money at a rate of £100 million per year.
Mr Hebblethwaite said re-employing the sacked staff on their previous wages would ‘deliberately cause the company’s collapse, resulting in the irreversible loss of an additional 2,000 jobs’.
Mr Rafferty said: ‘There is something seriously wrong with our society when a company CEO like P&O can swan into a Westminster parliamentary committee and openly state that he broke the law – and worse still, he’d do it again. What that clearly demonstrates is how useless the law is. There is no deterrent to companies like P&O who are getting away with destroying people’s lives.
‘The law needs to change. Peter Hebblethwaite should be struck off the directors register and put behind bars. That would send a clear message to employers, act irresponsibly towards workers and face the possibility that you will be jailed.’
Mr Hebblethwaite was also accused of ‘corporate terrorism’ last month as he faced MSPs in Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee. He told MSPs he had not taken a cut to his £325,000 salary while replacing his staff with agency workers who receive less than minimum wage.
Mr Rafferty, who is also Scottish Secretary of Unite the Union, urged trade union members to boycott P&O Ferries until the dispute had been resolved.
P&O Ferries expects to restart sailings for freight customers between Dover and Calais by Wednesday but does not anticipate carrying tourists until early next week, it is understood.
This morning the firm’s website began selling passenger tickets for cross-Channel sailings on its ship Spirit Of Britain from Wednesday.
The website later said there were ‘no sailings available for your selected dates’.
P&O Ferries has not operated between Dover and Calais since it sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice and replaced them with cheaper agency workers on March 17.
Spirit Of Britain was detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on April 12 after safety issues were found, but was cleared to sail on Friday.
Meanwhile, Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch claimed P&O Ferries has been ‘prevented from further cutting the pay of vulnerable agency crew’ by ‘pressure from RMT seafarers’.
The firm, owned by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World, insisted no agency workers were asked to take a pay cut.
The RMT received reports of agency workers at Dover being asked to sign new contracts with reduced payments, according to the BBC.
Mr Lynch said: ‘There are no depths to which P&O and their Dubai owners at DP World will not sink to extract the maximum profit from ferry crews operating our vital maritime supply chains.
‘This is underlined by the fact that, despite this U-turn, P&O are still only paying barely half of the UK minimum wage of £9.50 per hour.
‘Ultimately, staffing ships with super-exploited agency staff is not just morally wrong, it undercuts those remaining ferry operators who do abide by union rates of pay and conditions, and undermines passenger safety.
‘The only way out of this latest crisis at the ferry operator is for the Government to take over the running of P&O vessels and reinstate directly employed staff on union rates of pay.’
A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: ‘No agency seafarers were asked to accept reduced wages.’
He went on: ‘There was an administrative misunderstanding around the contract presented to one individual who appears to have been unaware of an appendix which made clear that he would be entitled to an additional £195 a month, meaning that there was no change in his overall pay.
‘There are no plans to change or reduce the wages of any of our agency seafarers and we have made clear that we will continue to comply fully with any national minimum wage obligations introduced by the UK Government.’
Today, travel expert Paul Charles said it was his understanding the ships had been impounded not due to actual physical deficiencies but because the new crews had not been trained well enough, with ‘some not even knowing where the liferafts were’. Pictured is a file photo of liferafts
The company’s chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, told MPs last month that the average pay of the agency crew is £5.50 per hour.
That is below the UK’s minimum wage but Mr Hebblethwaite said it is permitted under international maritime laws.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wants to create ‘minimum wage corridors’ on ferry routes between the UK and other countries.
MailOnline has contacted P&O Ferries for comment about the allegation some of its crew did not know where liferafts were kept.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency declined to comment.
An official inspection of one P&O ship, European Causeway, listed an inability to deploy lifeboats or life rafts as one of 31 failures that had been identified. The boat normally operates between Cairnryan, Scotland, and Larne, Northern Ireland
Source: Read Full Article