LONDON -Britain set out a plan on Wednesday to stop P&O Ferries benefiting from its decision to fire workers and replace them with cheaper agency staff, saying ports should refuse access to ferry services that do not pay the minimum wage.
Transport minister Grant Shapps said Britain would introduce new laws, strengthen employment rights and close legal loopholes as part of a package of measures to prevent a repeat of P&O’s decision to make 800 staff redundant without notice and hire cheap alternatives.
Shapps said if ports refused access to P&O unless they paid staff minimum wage, it would mean that the “cynical attempt” to profit from cheaper agency workers that are not covered by UK minimum wage legislation would fail.
“I want to see British ports refusing access to ferry companies who don’t pay a fair wage, as soon as practical,” Shapps told parliament.
“Crucially, it means that P&O Ferries can derive no benefit from the action that they have disgracefully taken.”
Shapps said the request was an interim measure while the government consulted on legislative changes to make it a legal requirement.
P&O’s decision to lay off hundreds of workers and replace them with agency staff has provoked widespread anger among ministers, opposition lawmakers and trade unions.
Shapps also announced several other measure in response to the P&O decision, including his intention to seek international “minimum wage corridors” with allies to help make sure workers are not paid below the British rate.
P&O Ferries on Tuesday rejected the government’s request to rehire the workers it fired two weeks ago, saying that doing so would cause the company to collapse.
“My message to P&O Ferries is this: The game is up, rehire those who want to return and pay your workers, all of your workers, a decent wage,” Shapps said.