The Workers Union has asked whether ferry operators could soon pay minimum wage.
In response to the government’s decision to introduce legislation that will oblige firms operating from UK ports to pay the National Minimum Wage, a spokesperson said: ‘The fallout from P&O Ferries’ decision to sack 800 workers and replace them with cheaper agency staff has put the plight of seafarers front and centre of national debate. While we applaud the government’s swift response to the crisis, we urge ferry companies – and other organisations in the maritime sector – to take a hard look at how they treat their precious human resources. These staff are hard-working, dedicated people who, in many cases, have years of expertise to draw on. They cannot just be bumped out of their jobs and replaced by agency workers with little or no emotional connection to their employers.’
Ministers remain hopeful that changing the law to cover vessels registered in other jurisdictions will end the potential for seafaring staff to be paid below the UK minimum wage threshold. They also hope it will strong-arm P&O Ferries into reinstating the crew members it sacked on the 17th of March.
The Workers Union Says…
It seems fitting that in the week the National Minimum Wage is set to rise, the government has made moves to close the loopholes that allow ferry workers to be exploited. However, we cannot exclusively rely on legislation to set the boundaries of human decency.
There must be a reckoning with companies that refuse to do the honourable thing and pay their workers what they are worth. The Workers Union has reported on many examples of bad practice over the years, and through our members we are aware of many more. Somewhere along the line, there is usually a point where the reputational damage to a company becomes so severe, that they are forced to act. But we shouldn’t even get to that stage.
So, we’re urging bosses everywhere to get to grips with the shifting dynamic between staff and employers and do the right thing. There is nowhere to hide anymore: eventually the veil of secrecy will be ripped asunder by the media, disgruntled employers or unpredictable economic factors. Technology makes this easy: bad bosses can be exposed and support networks built in a few key strokes. There really are no dusty crevices where guilt can be stuffed out of sight.
None of this should come as any surprise to C-suiters, and yet the game still goes on. But how long will it be before the hunters become the hunted?