Seafarers pay and conditions are in the spotlight in the UK Parliament with the boss of P&O Ferries Peter Hebblethwaite defending the company’s pay scheme claiming that “P&O Ferries, via its agency partner, pays a competitive wage in a competitive sector, and always pays at least the minimum wage required by national and international law.”

After his latest appearance in the UK’s MPs, which was in front of the Business and Trade Committee, a cross-party committee of MPs appointed by House of Commons, and asked about the pay and conditions of workers on P&O Ferries vessels, the ferry company chief executive send a letter dated May 7 to the chair of the Committee clarifying some points about the oral evidence session.

In his letter addressed to Committee Chair, Liam Byrne MP, the chief executive claimed that the company is complying fully with all applicable international and national standards, including the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

After his appearance in the Business and Trade Committee, the P&O Ferries boss, which has admitted that he couldn’t live on £4.87 an hour, he said that his company is paying considerably ahead of the international minimum standard.

When he was asked by the Committee chair “what is the lowest hourly rate of your agency crew,” the chief executive commented “I think the lowest fully consolidated hourly pay is about £4.87.”

Liam Byrne later asked: “But do you think you could live on £4.87 an hour?” With Hebblethwaite commenting: “No, I couldn’t.”

P&O Ferries’ boss however clarified the fact that “these are international seafarers in an international business in international water.”

“We pay considerably ahead of the international minimum standard,” he said, adding that “We believe that it is right that, as an international business operating in international waters, we should be governed by international law, and we pay.”

In his letter addressed to the chair of the committee the CEO also gave some more clarifications, in order as he said, to avoid any misunderstandings. As he said on May 7 in his letter:

“Our agency partner exceeds the MLC requirements by offering seven days of paid leave per month on our Dover-Calais vessels and nine days per month on our North Sea vessels.

“The seafarers work for a continuous number of days during their rotation (noting that the length of a “rotation” varies significantly depending on factors, including route and job type). This is consistent with standard practice across a range of industries that work on a rotation basis, including the maritime and offshore sectors.

“Payment in lieu of leave (i.e. payment in lieu of time taken off on-board) is factored into agency crew remuneration.

“In addition to MLC requirements, P&O Ferries stipulates that all agency seafarers employed on our vessels must take at least one paid day off per month. The only exception to this is for those on very short contracts who work straight through.

“The MLC also requires a minimum number of hours of rest of no fewer than 10 hours in any 24-hour period and 77 hours in any seven-day period. We fully comply with this requirement, and it is subject to inspection by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).”

Source: Business and Trade Committee, House of Commons