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Government plans to introduce minimum wage for seafarers will be worthless without enforcement, TUC warns

GOVERNMENT pledges to introduce the minimum wage for seafarers following the P&O sacking scandal will prove worthless without enforcement, the TUC warned yesterday.

The government has a track record of failing to enforce its own legislation on workers’ rights, the trade union confederation said.

Radical changes will be needed, such as giving revenue officials the right to board foreign vessels, if mariners are to receive the minimum wage, the TUC argued.

Only the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has the legal right to board ships for inspection to address safety concerns and enforce seafarers’ rights.

HM Revenue and Customs inspectors, who are responsible for ensuring that workers are paid the legal minimum, are not empowered to board vessels, the TUC pointed out.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “A lack of enforcement will kick the legs out from under the government’s minimum wage plans.

“Our weak enforcement regime lets rogue employers like P&O ride roughshod over fundamental workers’ rights.

“The P&O scandal is one of the most shameful moments in recent industrial relations history. But right now, there is a real risk that P&O will get off relatively scot-free.”

The government has again delayed introduction of a long-promised employment Bill to protect workers’ rights, the TUC noted.

Ms O’Grady said: “If ministers fail to deliver the employment Bill again, they will be toadying up to bad bosses.

“Only new legislation that beefs up worker protections will prevent another P&O-style scandal. A feeble statutory code on fire and rehire won’t cut it.”

She called on ministers to force P&O to give the workers their jobs back, prosecute the company for its actions and cut all links with its parent firm, Dubai-based DP World.

Mariners’ union RMT, which represents most of the 800 seafarers sacked by P&O Ferries, also demanded that the government take action.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “As RMT continues to fight to get our P&O members back to work and press the government to take the legal action it’s promised against this lawless bunch of spivs, it would be another kick in the teeth for the ferry workforce if ministers botch the minimum wage enforcement.

“The shipping industry is awash with companies adept at riding roughshod over employment law and mugging off politicians. It has to stop now.”

Sacked P&O workers protested in Liverpool yesterday as part of their campaign to win back their jobs.

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