I am extremely disappointed by the news of P&O’s decision that the current, Portuguese, Ratings of the Pride of York and Pride of Hull are to be scrapped and replaced by Filipino crews.
There are long-standing problems around seafarers on ships operating from British ports, including Hull, failing to receive British standards of rights and pay – the crews on these two ferries are already paid shockingly below the National Minimum Wage. This is now set to worsen, with seafarers shipped in to work under brutal conditions.
These are issues incredibly close to my heart. My father Ken Turner, a full-time officer of the National Union of Seamen in Hull, was responsible for negotiating with P&O a two weeks on, two weeks off deal for seafarers. Current Ratings work two months on, two weeks off. This is set to be further undermined, increasing the length of tour to six months. Such punishing conditions put the safety of crew and passengers at a concerning level of risk.
In addition, when ferries sailing between Hull and Rotterdam and Zeebrugge are staffed under third-world conditions, what opportunity is there for people in East Hull to take up work in shipping? Coming from a proud seafaring family, I find it especially painful to see a once-proud industry decimated by the persistent undercutting of minimum wage legislation. This is an anger undoubtedly shared by many in my constituency and across the country.
P&O’s decision is a blatant move to get a head-start in the race to the bottom on workers’ rights and pay, after the Tories’ electoral success fired the starting gun. The Tories may have secured a majority, but those in Hull and elsewhere who lent their votes did not sign up to have a sledgehammer taken to workers’ rights and passenger safety.
Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst already acknowledged last June, in response to my question in Parliament, that such practices are unacceptable, yet the Government has failed to act. In that exchange, we were promised that we would have legislation to tackle this in Autumn 2019, which is still nowhere to be seen. The Government must intervene to stop this scandal. For the sake of passengers and crew, I call on the Government to meet with me and trade unions for urgent discussions on P&O and broader exploitation in the shipping industry.