No more P&Os!

15 Mar 2023

Almost one year ago – on 17th March ’22 –  P&O Ferries sacked, without any prior consultation and via a video call, 786 crew members, with a plan to replace them with cheaper workers. In this shocking case, seafarers were illegally fired and cruelly mistreated by P&O Ferries.

We all need to understand that this was not just a UK problem but had implications for the European Union. The UK Government’s failure to enforce its labour laws sets a dangerous precedent for rogue employers across Europe. This massive dismissal of 786 seafarers employed on board ships flying a European flag and their replacement by seafarers who are nationals of low labour-cost countries illustrates the risk of deteriorating social and working conditions for seafarers anytime and anywhere in Europe.

Europe urgently needs to develop a European Maritime Space and a race to the top, not the bottom. It’s time for Europe to seriously enhance seafarers’ living and working conditions and protect its maritime jobs and maritime skills base! All crew, regardless of their nationality or place of residence, working onboard vessels regularly operating between European ports – no matter the vessel’s flag – must be granted European terms and conditions.

After this shocking case, a seafarers’ Wages Bill is in progress in the UK and continues through the stages of parliamentary law-making. The Bill should prevent a repeat of such a case and should prevent from any attempt to “Fire and rehire” practices. At the same time, 3 Bills are under study in France.

Earlier last year, in Norway, an Act was proposed by the Norwegian Government to promote fair and decent working conditions in Norwegian waters, in the Norwegian exclusive economic zone, and on the Norwegian continental shelf by ensuring that workers on board ships are provided with Norwegian wage and working conditions. The need to end unfair and destructive competition is being increasingly recognised by different Governments. All governments shall close all loopholes in employment legislation and start working with unions rather than attacking them.

We want to express our support and solidarity with our UK and French as well as Norwegian affiliates and all of their members who have come together to work towards this goal:

  • An end to unfair and destructive competition,
  • The start of competition from a common baseline that supports quality operations and an adherence to local wages and employment conditions,
  • That says local seafarers are key workers and deserve to be treated as their land-based equivalents,
  • With social protection including pensions, wages and conditions that reflect local conditions, not so-called “international norms”,
  • That encourages social dialogue & promotes collective bargaining and tripartism,
  • That promotes a race to the top.

RMT’s “No More P&Os” Week of Action started on 14th March, with a protest in Westminster, London. It will continue with an Assemble in Dover, a Rally in Hull on Friday, 17th March, and DP World Demo (London) on Tuesday, 21st March.

The ETF expresses its support and solidarity with our affiliates in the UK, and we will be there with them to raise our voices and say: “No More P&Os.”

It’s time for Europe to seriously enhance seafarers’ living and working conditions and protect its maritime jobs and maritime skills base! Europe urgently needs a race to the top, not to the bottom.