RMT declares formal dispute with P & O

The RMT has declared a formal industrial dispute with P&O, and is beginning preparations for a national industrial action ballot over the employer selling-out ratings jobs on Irish Sea routes.

In early June P&O announced the sale of the Bahamas-registered MV European Endeavour to Finnish ferry company Eckerö. RMT members directly employed by P&O on the European Endeavour were offered a voluntary redundancy package or alternative employment hundreds of miles away from their Irish Sea base.

The union has maintained its ratings members should be offered alternative employment by the company in the Irish Sea, in a package similar to the one offered to officers from the European Endeavour who are now employed on the remaining Irish Sea P&O fleet – the Norbay, European Highlander and European Causeway. RMT’s negotiating team believe that it would be straightforward for P&O to find our displaced members suitable employment on those vessels.

In light of this, and P&O’s continued use of crewing agencies to recruit non-UK/Irish Ratings on pay below the National Minimum Wage to work on their Irish Sea fleet, RMT members submitted a collective grievance. However, the company did not uphold the workers’ case, citing that their ‘business model’ on the Irish Sea needs to be maintained.

The union believes the company’s actions undermines its members’ collectively-bargained terms and conditions.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “P&O Ferries are riding roughshod over the mobility clauses in RMT members’ contracts in order to carry on exploiting agency crew, literally at the expense of their own employees. This course of action could ultimately open the door to ratings being instructed to move from location to location at the drop of a hat without a shred of concern for their work/life balance.

“RMT will not sit back while agreements are unilaterally ripped apart and our members are seen as just names and numbers on a spread sheet that can be shunted from pillar to post to suit a cheapskate business model that undermines industrial relations.

“Although RMT has been exploring all legal and political avenues in order to try and resolve this matter, the union’s NEC believes that P&O’s intransigent attitude has backed the union into a corner and therefore we should start preparing a ballot for industrial action. I have, therefore, advised P&O that our organisations are now in dispute over this matter. We remain available for serious and genuine talks at resolving a dispute which goes to the heart of decades of decline in British Ratings’ jobs.”

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