P&O scandal has ‘blown hole’ in maritime sector

Speaking at a conference in Liverpool the general secretary of seafarers union Nautilus UK said the P&O Ferries scandal had blown a hole in the UK’s maritime strategy. Tony McDonough reports

Mark Dickinson
Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus International speaking in Liverpool. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

Seafarers union leader Mark Dickinson said the sacking of 800 workers by P&O Ferries in March had “blown a hole” in the Government’s strategy for the UK maritime industry.

Speaking at the Mersey Maritime Maritime Exchange conference at Liverpool Town Hall, Nautilus International general secretary Mr Dickinson urged the Government to avoid a “race to the bottom” when it comes to seafarer pay and conditions.

P&O’s summary sacking of 800 workers caused outrage across politics and industry. In response the Government published a nine-point plan they claimed would minimise the risk of a repeat of the scandal.

Addressing the conference via video link, Maritime Minister Robert Courts said it was vital to reform protections for maritime sector workers. He hailed the Government’s nine-point plan which aimed to ensure seafarers are paid the national minimum wage. Port operators are being asked to bar access to ferry operators who pay below the going rate.

While Mr Dickinson welcomed the move on the minimum wage he added asking port operators to enforce the rule was like “asking them to mark their own homework”.

The Liverpool conference was focused on discussing the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy which laid out the sector’s priorities for the next three decades. Mr Dickinson said: “The P&O scandal has blown a hole in the Maritime 2050 strategy.

“It is a strategy we full support and are partners in. But P&O has put Maritime 2050 in serious peril by putting young people off a career in maritime. It has turbo-charged a race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions of seafarers.”

Nautilus International has put forward its own Fair Ferries Strategy that it is urging the Government to adopt. It introduces a framework agreement that would require collective bargaining to be concluded with ferry operators on routes to and from UK ports. These would see the implementation of legally enforceable agreements.

“Our plan will create and protect jobs and it will bring an end to this destructive race to the bottom. An international minimum that becomes a maximum has no place in our industry,” Mr Dickinson added.

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