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Still fighting the P&O sackings [print version]

Nautilus and RMT members continue their campaign outside Parliament, 20 March. Photo Workers.

P&O Ferries workers are continuing to protest against the notorious sacking and re-hiring scandal. Members of the RMT and Nautilus unions held a rally outside Parliament on Wednesday 20 March calling for government action.

Two years ago P&O Ferries sacked 786 ferry crew without warning and immediately replaced them with lower paid agency workers. Union members across Britain and elsewhere were appalled and reacted with demonstrations and rallies.

At the time government minister Grant Shapps shed crocodile tears, promising legislation to ensure it could never happen again. Yet there are still no mandatory regulations in place.

Martin Gray of Nautilus told the rally that his members were “discarded like dirt”. He said that the Seafarers’ Wages Act and voluntary Seafarers’ Welfare Charter brought in by the government lack sufficient legislative backing to address exploitation in the industry.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation is the international union representing seafarers. It has called for a mandatory charter and stronger employment laws to prevent a repetition of the P&O sackings.

The view of the TUC and unions is that P&O broke the law in several respects and exploited loopholes to cover its actions. P&O management have been let off the hook.

After the sackings, RMT launched a campaign, Fair Ferries. The aim is to look at the whole sector and monitor progress, or the lack of it, on the government’s promises.

• A longer version of this article is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk