UK seafarers union, RMT has written to the new UK Shipping Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, demanding actions to support the union’s fight to save more than 1,000 jobs at P&O Ferries.
Over 730 of these threatened jobs are currently held by UK seafarer ratings employed on vital ferry routes from Dover and Hull to the continent, the RMT claimed.
In his letter, RMT general secretary Mick Cash (pictured) called on the UK Government to take the following steps to save jobs at P&O Ferries and to re-build UK seafarer employment in this country:
- Issue a public statement opposing compulsory redundancies and implore P&O Ferries to use the extended furlough scheme in the UK to protect employment for key workers, especially seafarers and dockers.
- Place a condition of long term employment protections for British ratings and officers on all state support provided to P&O Ferries and any other operator, including but not limited to Public Service Obligation routes.
- Pursue public ownership and control of P&O Ferries’ operations as a priority.
- Outlaw nationality based pay discrimination against seafarers on UK registered vessels.
- Commit to a strategy for returning the UK ferry fleet to the Red Ensign.
- Amend the Tonnage Tax scheme to include mandatory links to training and employment for UK ratings and officers.
- Reform the UK’s cabotage laws to apply and enforce UK employment, equality and immigration law in the shipping industry.
Cash said: “These are keyworker jobs that support the local economy, particularly in Dover and Hull.
“P&O Ferries and their paymasters in Dubai are threatening RMT seafarers’ jobs because they want to replace them with cheaper ratings from the other side of the world when the recovery in passenger numbers comes.
“We have a healthy dialogue with the Shipping Minister and her officials but we must now see dynamic action from the Government in support of British seafarers jobs on vital ferry routes that are being subsidised by the taxpayer,” he said.
Earlier, the RMT had reacted with concern to news that the UK Government has provided £35 mill in support to six ferry companies, including P&O Ferries, operating critical freight routes during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Cash said: “No freight moves without seafarers. The Government needs to remember this when dishing out public money to private ferry companies during the pandemic.
“We are extremely concerned that this money is not available on the critical Holyhead/Dublin route and that there are no conditions attached that will protect seafarer jobs from the likes of P&O Ferries’ owners in Dubai who are using public funds to pursue mass redundancies in Dover and Hull now and cheaper foreign crews replacing UK seafarers when passenger demand returns.
“We need action now to protect our seafarers’ jobs for the long term or the Government will have failed to protect these strategically vital jobs in working class communities,” he said.
The RMT also responded to the news that Condor Ferries was thinking of cutting its staff.
Cash said: “The UK Government has just given millions to Condor’s new owner, Brittany Ferries as part of the £35 mill freight ferries package announced (recently).
“And the very next day, Condor is sizing up local seafarers for the chop and replacing them with cheaper foreign seafarers further down the line when Covid-19 recedes and passengers return.
“We urge Brittany Ferries and Condor to get round the negotiating table with RMT so that we can work on furlough and other measures to protect jobs and support lifeline Channel Island services.”