Britain said on Monday, March 28, it would force ferry companies docking in its ports to pay the minimum wage as the UK stepped up pressure on P&O Ferries to rehire a total of 800 employees who the company had fired without notice in favour of cheaper staff.
P&O Ferries, which is owned by Dubai ports company DP World, announced it had decided to break the law and fire staff on the spot so it could instead hire cheaper agency workers after losing GBP 100 million (USD 132M) in 2021 due to the COVID crisis.
The Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the move and urged a rethink by P&O Ferries as Britons struggle with surging inflation.
It said it would also introduce new legislation.
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said in a letter to P&O Chief Executive Peter Hebblethwaite that he posted on Twitter the package of measures would "ensure that seafarers are protected against these types of actions".
He added he intended to block the outcome that P&O had pursued, "including paying workers less than the minimum wage."
The coastguard last week detained a P&O ferryboat, saying the lack of crew familiarization and training meant it wasn't ready to sail.
The British government plans to use legislation in order to force all ferry operators operating from ports in the country to pay at least the national minimum wage, which will rise for most workers to GBP 9.50 (US$12.50) next month.
P&O Ferries said its new crew members on cross-Channel and some other routes would earn ~GBP 5,50 per hour.
Transport Secretary Shapps said in his letter to P&O Ferries that its actions had left the company's reputation in tatters. He called on it to offer all staff their jobs back.
"I believe you will be left with little choice but to reverse your decision. A reversal at this point may also go some way in starting to repair your firm's reputation with the public."