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Unions Demand Action to Prevent Repeat of P&O Ferries Scandal

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On the second anniversary of the P&O Ferries mass sackings scandal, unions are urging the government to take decisive action to protect seafarers and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

The controversial mass dismissal by P&O Ferries saw 786 British crew members lose their jobs in favour of low-paid agency staff. Despite admitting to illegal actions, the company has faced no sanctions and continues to operate without consequence, undercutting competitors on labor costs.

Unions, including the TUC, Nautilus International, and the RMT, have criticized the government for failing to close legal loopholes exploited by P&O Ferries or sanction the company and its owner, DP World. While pledges for legislation such as the Seafarers’ Wages Act have been made, concrete actions have yet to materialize.

A joint statement issued by the unions called for a mandatory seafarers’ charter to provide greater protection for workers in the maritime industry. It emphasised the need for government intervention to hold bad actors accountable and prevent further exploitation of workers.

Proposed reforms, according to the statement, fall short of addressing the systemic issues at play. A feeble code of practice on fire-and-rehire and a non-mandatory welfare charter are seen as inadequate measures that fail to hold employers accountable.

P&O Ferries has since hired low-paid crew from around the world on short-term contracts, circumventing legal obligations. The company’s chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, remains in his position despite admitting to breaking the law.

A government spokesperson highlighted efforts to strengthen seafarer rights, including consultations with industry and unions to implement robust legislation. The Seafarers’ Wages Act is expected to come into force in the summer, aiming to establish an international minimum wage corridor across the Dover Strait.