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Nautilus makes the voice of seafarers heard at P&O Ferries seminar in Parliament

8 May 2024

As part of Nautilus International's continued political engagement to gain support for action on P&O Ferries, general secretary Mark Dickinson attended a seminar in the UK Parliament on Tuesday 30 April 2024 with our sister union the RMT and members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Robert Murtagh reports

The event, chaired by Paula Barker MP, was focused on two key issues: the need for a mandatory seafarers charter and how Labour's 'New Deal for Working People' can benefit seafarers.

On the first anniversary of P&O Ferries' illegal mass-sacking, shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh MP and deputy leader of the Labour party Angela Rayner committed to a five-point plan to prevent a repeat of this shameful action, which included a mandatory seafarers charter and an end to fire and rehire.

The seminar comes as the French government has approved legislation to mandate, among other things, two week on/off roster patterns on ferries entering French ports. This has forced P&O Ferries to review its crewing model, with crewing agent PhilCrew communicating with staff that the French legislation would cause 'difficulties'.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson speaking at the event, called for Labour to be bold in their ambition on a mandatory charter. He said:

'A potential Labour government must send a clear message that we will not tolerate any form of exploitation in our waters, and they will enforce local standards that our people expect, not international minimums that were never designed for these types of trades.'

The event heard from shadow maritime and aviation minister Mike Kane, who re-affirmed the Labour Party’s commitment to a mandatory seafarers' charter that includes action on fatigue, including roster patterns, alongside other social welfare protections and pay. 

Shadow employment rights minister Justin Madders spoke about Labour's New Deal for Working People and how this can address some of the issues raised by the P&O Ferries scandal, particularly placing an obligation on companies to consult ahead of a mass-sacking.

The event also heard from TUC senior policy officer Janet Williamson, who talked about the need for sectoral collective bargaining to underpin the impact of a mandatory charter so that it can be subject to continuous improvement, ensuring it is dynamic rather than a static piece of legislation.

Both Nautilus and the RMT pressed upon the need for Labour to ensure that any employment bill that comes before Parliament to extend workers's rights must have due consideration for the complexities of maritime employment. No longer can seafarers be left out of enhanced rights and protections enjoyed by their shore-based counterparts.


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