HomeWorld NewsGrant Shapps gives P&O Ferries final chance to U-turn on sackings
Grant Shapps gives P&O Ferries final chance to U-turn on sackings
Grant Shapps warns P&O Ferries its reputation is ‘in tatters’ over ‘sweatshop pay’ policy as he gives the firm one last chance to U-turn on sacking 800 seafarers – or face new laws to make it obey minimum wage
The Transport Secretary has given an ultimatum to P&O Ferries on pay rates
Grant Shapps threatened new law unless the firm U-turns on summary sackings
Grant Shapps warned P&O Ferries its reputation is ‘in tatters’ today as he ordered it to make a U-turn over its ‘sweatshop pay’ policy.
In a letter to the firm’s boss, Peter Hebblethwaite, the Transport Secretary vowed new laws to close a ‘loophole’ in national minimum wage rules exploited by the firm.
The move could ban maritime firms from British ports unless they pay crew at least the UK minimum wage.
Mr Shapps said he believed Mr Hebblethwaite’s position as a chief executive ‘and indeed as a company director’ had become ‘untenable’.
And he said he was giving the company ‘one further opportunity’ to offer ‘all 800 workers their jobs back on their previous terms, conditions and wages’.
Mr Shapps wrote: ‘The past week has left the reputation of P&O Ferries and, I’m afraid, you personally in tatters.
‘Not only were your letters of 22 March to the Business Secretary and myself wholly unsatisfactory, your appearance at the Transport Select Committee, during which you brazenly admitted to breaking employment law, demonstrated beyond doubt your contempt for workers who have given years of service to your company.
‘There is no excuse for this behaviour, and as I said publicly on Friday, I believe your position as chief executive, and indeed as a company director, has become untenable.’
Mr Shapps added: ‘I will be bringing a comprehensive package of measures to Parliament to ensure that seafarers are protected against these types of actions in the way that Parliament and this Government already intended. Through that package, I intend to block the outcome that P&O Ferries has pursued, including paying workers less than the minimum wage.’
In a letter to the firm’s boss, Peter Hebblethwaite, the Transport Secretary vowed new laws to close a ‘loophole’ in national minimum wage rules exploited by the firm
Mr Shapps said he believed Mr Hebblethwaite’s position as a chief executive ‘and indeed as a company director’ had become ‘untenable’
A Department for Transport source said before the letter emerged: ‘Brexit allows us full control of the prized ferry routes operating between the UK and the Continent and Ireland.
‘There will be no room on UK ferry routes for firms that think they can get away with sweatshop pay.’
About 800 crew, mostly UK nationals paid an average annual salary of £36,000, were sacked by P&O Ferries without notice on March 17. Cheaper agency staff brought in to replace them are being offered an hourly average of £5.50.
P&O Ferries is currently legally entitled to pay them on lower international rates as its ships are registered abroad.
Mr Hebblethwaite, who is paid £325,000 a year plus bonuses, was branded a ‘shameless criminal’ who used ‘gangster’ tactics during a fiery Commons committee hearing last week.
About 800 crew, mostly UK nationals paid an average annual salary of £36,000, were sacked by P&O Ferries without notice on March 17
Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Shapps to take tougher action against P&O Ferries and parent company DP World.
‘They have already got millions of pounds of Government money, taxpayer money, and they are in for £50 million as one of the free ports,’ he said.
‘A huge amount of taxpayer money. I would like to see the Government take stronger action in relation to that.’
He told LBC radio the sacking of 800 staff was ‘shocking on so many levels’.
‘Firstly, that pre-recorded video telling people this is the last day of your job – absolutely shocking.
‘Second thing that’s really shocking is to see the senior management parading into Parliament last week saying ‘yes, we broke the law, we knew what we were doing, we decided it was better to break the law’ – absolute contempt.’
He said the Government had been warned that firms such as P&O could get around minimum wage laws and ‘had that loophole in the law been closed two years ago, they would not have lost their jobs in the way they did’.