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Britain to force ferry firms to pay minimum wage after P&O row

© Reuters. P&O Ferries ship European Causeway, is seen held in the Port of Larne, Northern Ireland March 27, 2022. REUTERS/Paul Childs

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has warned P&O Ferries it will force operators docking in the United Kingdom to pay the minimum wage as it stepped up efforts to persuade the company to rethink a shock decision to fire 800 workers without notice in favour of cheaper staff.

Owned by Dubai ports firm DP World, P&O said it decided to break the law and fire workers on the spot so it could instead hire cheaper agency staff after it lost 100 million pounds ($132 million) last year due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The government has condemned the move – which has turned the spotlight on to Britain’s flexible labour laws – and urged it to rethink at a time when inflation is surging and taxes are rising. It will also introduce new legislation.

In what is turning into a battle of wills between the company and the government, the country’s coastguard agency detained a P&O ferry last week, saying a lack of crew familiarisation and training meant it was not ready to sail.

British transport minister Grant Shapps plans to introduce legislation forcing all ferry operators operating from UK ports to pay at least the national minimum wage, which rises for most workers to 9.50 pounds ($12.50) next month.

P&O has said its new crews on cross-Channel and some other routes will earn around 5.50 pounds a hour.

Shapps is set to write to the head of P&O, Peter Hebblethwaite, and tell him that his plan to use cheaper workers is doomed because a new law will soon ban the practice.

The Financial Times quoted an aide to Shapps as saying he would tell Hebblethwaite “that if he doesn’t perform a U-turn, we will force him to do it anyway. We hope they will see reason and step back”.

($1 = 0.7618 pounds)

UK to force ferry operator wage changes after P&O row

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