Grant Shapps unveils plan to make P&O Ferries ‘fundamentally rethink’ sackings

P&O Ferries will be forced to “fundamentally rethink their decision” to sack nearly 800 workers, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The Cabinet minister made the claim as he set out a series of measures in response to the redundancies.

These include plans to create “minimum wage corridors” on ferry routes between the UK and other countries.

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He will also urge ports to refuse access to boats carrying seafarers paid below the minimum wage, and ask the Insolvency Service to consider disqualifying P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite from acting as a company director.

P&O Ferries will be forced to “fundamentally rethink their decision” to sack nearly 800 workers, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Shapps said: “P&O Ferries’ failure to see reason, to recognise the public anger, and to do the right thing by their staff has left the Government with no choice.

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“I am today announcing a package of nine measures that will force them to fundamentally rethink their decision.

“This will send a clear message to the maritime industry: we will not allow this to happen again.

“Where new laws are needed, we will create them. Where legal loopholes are cynically exploited, we will close them. And where employment rights are too weak, we will strengthen them.”

Grant Shapps said the Government wants to bring forward the legislation to allow British ports to refuse access to ferry services that do not pay their crew the minimum wage “as quickly as possible”, adding: “We’re legally-bound to consult with the sector on any changes – and unlike P&O, we take that consultation seriously.

“So legislative changes will not be possible overnight.”

But Mr Shapps said he will be writing to all ports in the UK explaining the Government’s plan, adding: “But in the meantime instructing them not to wait. I want to see British ports refusing access to ferry companies who don’t pay a fair wage as soon as practicable.

“This will have the full backing of the Government and I’ve instructed the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to get behind this action too, and they’ve indicated that they will.”

The Transport Secretary added of the proposals: “It’ll send a clear message that if you are using British waters and British ports to ply your trade then you must accept British laws.”

Grant Shapps is working towards establishing “minimum wage corridors” between the UK and nations such as France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany.

Mr Hebblethwaite, whose basic annual salary is £325,000, told MPs on March 24 that the average pay of the agency crew is £5.50 per hour.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said the steps announced by the Government to “insist on the bare minimum cannot come a moment too soon”, adding Labour welcomed the measures.

She asked if the minimum wage will apply on the entirety of all UK international routes not just in British waters, with Mr Shapps in his reply saying: “It is for routes that ply their trade between Britain and our continental neighbours.”

P&O Ferries sacked its crews and replaced them with agency workers on March 17.

The minimum wage in the UK for people aged 23 and over is £8.91 per hour.