P&O Ferries CEO Concedes £4.87-Per-Hour Wage Is Unsustainable, Amidst ‘Fire-and-Rehire’ Backlash

P&O Ferries CEO Concedes £4.87-Per-Hour Wage Is Unsustainable, Amidst ‘Fire-and-Rehire’ Backlash

P&O Ferries CEO Concedes £4.87-Per-Hour Wage Is Unsustainable, Amidst 'Fire-and-Rehire' Backlash

P&O Ferries CEO Concedes £4.87-Per-Hour Wage Is Unsustainable, Amidst 'Fire-and-Rehire' Backlash

P&O Ferries CEO Concedes £4.87-Per-Hour Wage Is Unsustainable, Amidst 'Fire-and-Rehire' Backlash

In a stark admission that has resonated across the maritime industry, P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite disclosed that he could not subsist on the £4.87-per-hour paid to some of his employees. This statement came during a probing session by the Commons’ Business and Trade Committee, shedding light on the disparities within the company that famously implemented a “fire-and-rehire” strategy, affecting nearly 800 workers.

Hebblethwaite’s Eye-Opening Testimony

During the committee’s latest session, Hebblethwaite revealed the ongoing wage structures at P&O Ferries, where some staff earn as little as £4.87 per hour, considerably less than the UK’s national minimum wage of £11.44 for people aged 21 and over. Despite this, Hebblethwaite argued that the company’s pay rates are “considerably ahead of international minimum standards,” pointing out that these are international seafarers, often recruited from an international pool by a crewing agent.

This testimony follows previous controversial decisions by P&O Ferries, which our readers might recall in the articles “Why P&O Ferries fired 800 workers without notice” and “Chef wins case for unfair dismissal against P&O Ferries.” These pieces highlighted not just individual grievances but pointed to systemic issues within the company’s employment practices.

Contextualizing Wage Disparities

This news comes in the wake of our recent coverage on similar topics, including “Is P&O Ferries the thin end of the wedge?” and “Carnival UK withdraws ‘fire-and-rehire’ threat,” which discuss the broader implications of such employment strategies on the maritime industry. The issue of low pay and precarious employment conditions has been a recurring theme, as explored in our piece “It’s time to end fire and rehire tactics,” calling for more humane employment practices.

Legal and Ethical Questions

Hebblethwaite’s statements underline a significant ethical debate, especially considering the legal backdrop. P&O Ferries insists that their actions, while harsh, were within legal boundaries. This is still under scrutiny, as noted in Hebblethwaite’s previous appearance before the committee in March 2022, where he stated that the employees would receive at least £5.15 every hour.

The Broader Impact on Workers

While Hebblethwaite expressed regret over the “fire-and-rehire” policy, stating, “I am deeply sorry for the impact it had on 786 seafarers and their families,” the decision’s legality does not cushion the human cost. The ongoing civil investigation by the government highlights the unresolved tensions and the need for a stronger regulatory framework to protect seafarers workers’ rights.


As this situation unfolds, it is crucial to continue scrutinizing the practices of companies like P&O Ferries, whose decisions have far-reaching consequences on their workers and the industry at large. The dialogue surrounding fair pay and ethical treatment of employees must persist, pushing towards standards that ensure all employees can live on their earnings — a principle that seems fundamentally compromised in P&O Ferries’ current model.

The Workers Union says…

“The testimony of Peter Hebblethwaite is a reminder of the stark realities many workers face in industries worldwide. It emphasizes the necessity for ongoing dialogue, policy re-evaluation, and stronger protections for workers to ensure that their rights and livelihoods are not just upheld but prioritized.”

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