Troubled ferry operator P&O announced today it will restart its Dover to Calais services this week amid accusations it was planning to further cut the salaries of agency workers.
P&O is selling tickets for Channel crossing after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) cleared its vessel, the Spirit of Britain, on Saturday.
Freight services will start on Wednesday morning – the first time since the company sacked 800 seafarers and replaced them with cheaper agency workers.
Workers, who are already paid half than their fired counterparts, said they were working without contracts and that they were told to agree to earn less than £5.50 per hour.
“They don’t care about our rights. They try to give us less money. We are desperate,” a seafarer aboard the Spirit of Britain told the union RMT in a letter seen by the BBC.
RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch called on the government to take over the operator and bring workers in house.
“There are no depths to which P&O and their Dubai owners at DP World will not sink to extract the maximum profit from ferry crews operating our vital maritime supply chains,” he said.
“This is underlined by the fact that, despite this U-turn, P&O are still only paying barely half of the UK minimum wage of £9.50 per hour.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that, while the u-turn was good, P&O needs to “go further and pay the minimum wage like all UK businesses.”
“We will legislate to force them, but they could win back some much needed credibility by acting now,” he tweeted.
The operator rebutted that it was an administrative misunderstanding and that no one was asked to accept lower wages.
“There are no plans to change or reduce the wages of any of our agency seafarers and we have made clear that we will continue to comply fully with any national minimum wage obligations introduced by the UK Government,” a company spokesperson said.