Nautilus International, the UK’s largest maritime union, has condemned P&O Ferries for continuing to exploit agency crew recruited from overseas.
Recently, Nautilus received information that P&O Ferries had retained two new crewing agencies, with the main one – Phil Crew Management Limited – being based in Malta.
‘PhilCrew’ was established on 6th April, 2023, has a website consisting of three pages, and is registered to an address it shares with more than 20 other companies, the union claimed.
A communication from P&O Ferries informed existing crew that if they did not sign up with the new agency, they would no longer have a job.
The ‘Crew Management Changes Q&A’ document sent from P&O Ferries to crew also suggested that pay is being ‘reviewed’ with no guarantee that salaries wouldn’t be cut nor is there any guarantee that contract lengths won’t change, except for watchkeepers.
This information suggests P&O Ferries is determined to continue to recruit agency labour from abroad, on lower wages and poor conditions, exploiting crew and undermining jobs for UK-based maritime professionals, Nautilus stressed.
In March, 2022, P&O Ferries unlawfully sacked almost its entire UK based seafaring workforce, without consultation or notice, and replaced them with agency crew, some of whom were paid significantly less than the UK minimum wage and employed on much longer tours of duty that the unions considered to be unsafe.
Nautilus General Secretary, Mark Dickinson, said: “Yet again, P&O Ferries shrouds itself in shame as it continues its co-ordinated campaign to exploit maritime professionals. This latest development from the company is just a further example of the contemptuous approach the company takes to its employees.
“Nautilus has welcomed the passing of the UK Seafarers Wages Act, but as this development shows, and as we have continually warned, this bill is not enough on its own.
“Fifteen months on from the sacking, the civil case against P&O Ferries is ongoing. The UK government must act on bi-lateral agreements with neighbouring countries that go further than just minimum wage but seek to ensure employment conditions reflective of local standards, not international minimums.
“We also urge the government to ensure any ‘Seafarers Welfare Charter’ is comprehensive and compulsory. Anything less would be devastating for the UK ferry workforce,” he said.