As the P&O situation worsens, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP has said that Brexit powers would be used against the Dubai-owned corporation to demand a wage raise for employees unless they reverse their existing intentions.
The British government sent this warning in an official letter to P&O’s top executive, Peter Hebblewaite. The letter asks the CEO to abandon proposals that would pay employees significantly less than the existing minimum wage.
P&O ferries chose only last week to fire all employees earning more than £36,000 per year and replace them with low-paid agency workers earning £5.50 per hour, significantly less than the current UK minimum wage of £8.91 per hour.
Mr Shapps has threatened to shut the “loophole” that permits the corporation to pay individuals significantly less unless they pay a decent salary to their workers, using Brexit powers.
“Brexit allows us full control of the prized ferry routes operating between the UK and the Continent and Ireland,” a source from the Department of Transport told the Daily Mail.
“There will be no room on UK ferry routes for firms that think they can get away with sweatshop pay.”
Mr Shapps wrote to P&O Ferries to oppose their proposals for low-wage employees, writing: “I will be bringing a comprehensive package of measures to Parliament to ensure that seafarers are protected against these types of actions in the way that Parliament and this Government already intended.
“Through that package, I intend to block the outcome that P&O Ferries has pursued, including paying workers less than the minimum wage.”
P&O Ferries has yet to react to the UK government’s formal letter. What was expressed doesn’t leave much space for manoeuvring for the corporation.