P&O boss admits to paying workers as little as £4.87 per hour after scandal | Personal Finance | Finance

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Two years following a debacle that had P&O Ferries branded as “pirates” for dismissing hundreds of its workforce without prior notice, the firm’s chief, Peter Hebblethwaite has conceded to paying his employees a mere £4.87 an hour.

Despite strong demand for an independent investigation into the company’s labour practices, Mr Hebblethwaite maintained before the Business and Trade Committee MPs, that P&O’s staffers were not exploited. .

The CEO, admitting it would be impossible for him to sustain himself on a £4.87 hourly wage, disclosed his annual earnings amounting to £508,000, inclusive of a £183,000 bonus last year.

In his own words, Mr Hebblethwaite stated: “We are paying considerably ahead of the international minimum standard. We believe that it is right that as an international business operating in international waters, we should be governed by international law.”

He went on to add: “All we want is a level playing field with our competitors.”

This comes to light two years post 786 P&O employees being terminated and supplanted by low-wage workers via an external hiring agency, an act executed sans pre-notice or trade union discussion, drawing severe backlash from authorities, unions and the general public. .

P&O Ferries, under the proprietorship of Dubai-rooted DP World since 2019, received confirmation from The Insolvency Service on their decision against initiating criminal action towards the company.

In 2022, P&O replaced its dismissed workers with overseas agency staff, revealing to Parliament that the average pay for these agency workers was £5.50 per hour. However, a recent analysis by The Guardian and ITV News suggested that some of P&O’s agency workers were earning around £4.87 an hour, a figure confirmed by Mr Hebblethwaite on Tuesday.

Committee chair Liam Byrne questioned Mr Hebblethwaite, asking: “Are you basically a modern day pirate? ” Mr Hebblethwaite did not directly respond to this accusation. Later, Mr Byrne asked: “Do you think you could live on £4.87 an hour? ” To which Mr Hebblethwaite replied: “No, I couldn’t.”

Labour MP Charlotte Nichols repeatedly urged Mr Hebblethwaite to commit to an independent investigation into the company’s employment practices, but he resisted.

He stated: “You can take from the retention levels that the crewing agent experiences and their ability to recruit the highest standard of international seafarers is hard evidence that people who could work anywhere in the world on any ships have chosen to work for P&O.”

At the time, the UK minimum wage was £10.42 an hour, rising to £11.44 an hour in April. However, for maritime workers employed by an overseas agency working on foreign-registered ships in international waters, these rates do not apply.

The Government pledged to close this loophole two years ago following the job cuts at P&O Ferries.

Earlier this year, it was announced that new legislation aimed at addressing the issue is expected to come into force this summer, following France’s lead in implementing a similar law.

Mr Hebblethwaite has consented to endorse a voluntary Government Seafarers’ Charter, pledging to remunerate maritime workers at least the UK minimum wage within British waters, stating that the company will sign the charter “within months”.

In response to queries about whether the impending legal amendments would lead to further redundancies and significant staffing alterations, Mr Hebblethwaite did not provide a definitive assurance.


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