Shapps to ban ferry operators not paying minimum wage


The Government has announced ‘new measures to protect seafarers’, including banning ferries that don’t pay the National Minimum Wage (NMW) from docking at British ports, but the organisations representing ports said plans for its members to enforce the NMW ‘could be unworkable’.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced the ‘suite of new measures’ following P&O Ferries’ decision to summarily sack 800 workers earlier this month.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed new legislation to ban ferries that do not pay their workers the NMW from docking at British ports, ‘closing a legal loophole between UK and international maritime law that P&O Ferries ruthlessly exploited’.

The DfT said that ‘to ensure seafarers are protected straight away, the Transport Secretary has instructed ports to refuse entry to ferries not paying workers the NMW – immediately replicating the effect the new laws will have when introduced in the coming weeks’.

Officials said HMRC will also continue to target its enforcement activity, investigating any ferry operators that it suspects do not pay their workers NMW.

Mr Shapps said: ‘We can boast some of the highest maritime standards in the world, but for too long some employers have managed to avoid showing workers the most basic respect.

‘Ensuring a fair wage for our seafarers means UK workers are not undercut by employers and it reiterates the UK flag as one of the most respected in the world.’

However, Richard Ballantyne, CEO of the British Ports Association, which represents all of the UK’s main ferry ports, said: ‘While it’s right the Government and the ferry industry look to improve employment rules and standards, the expectation that port authorities will need to enforce minimum wage rules in the shipping sector could be unworkable. This will place ports in a difficult legal predicament, especially before any legislation is in place.’

He added: ‘The ports industry is genuinely sympathetic towards the situation of the impacted seafarers, however we would suggest that ports are not the competent authorities to enforce rules on employee salaries or working conditions in the shipping industry. We are concerned that the Government is rushing to find a solution without considering the wider implications in the maritime sector.’

The DfT added: ‘Following the conduct of Peter Hebblethwaite, the Transport Secretary has asked the CEO of the Insolvency Service to consider whether the P&O Ferries Chief Executive should be disqualified as a director.’

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