P&O boss admits he couldn’t live on £4.87 an hour crew pay

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In 2022, P&O Ferries, known for its Dover to Calais route, gained notoriety when it made 786 staff redundant before replacing them with people on lower wages.

The move led to a public outcry and prompted the government to create legislation aimed at preventing similar mass sacking happening in the future.

On Tuesday, Mr Hebblethwaite told MPs that the agency workers P&O now uses to crew its boats can be paid as little as £4.87 a hour- that includes overtime and bonuses. On average, P&O workers make £5.20 an hour.

The chief executive said crew is paid in excess of the minimum basic wage set out by international law.

“We are paying considerably ahead of the international standard,” he said.

But Liam Byrne, chair of the Business and Trade Committee, accused Mr Hebblethwaite of “robbing your staff blind”.

The chief executive was also asked whether he felt like “a modern day pirate” by the committee chair.

In the UK, the minimum wage rose to £11.44 an hour in April but many crew members who work for P&O Ferries are recruited by an external agency from overseas, including from India and the Philippines.

Mr Hebblethwaite said: “We are paying considerably ahead of the international minimum standard.

“We believe that it is right that as an international business operating in international waters, we should be governed by international law.”

“In British waters when the law changes we’ll pay national minimum wage. We already pay national minimum wage on domestic routes,” Mr Hebblethwaite added.

“It’s a minimum wage for UK workers, we recruit from an international field and operate in international waters.”

Labour MP Andy McDonald responded saying he understood the point he P&O Ferries boss was making, but added: “It just appears to this committee that you’re getting away with what amounts to modern day slavery.”

Mr Hebblethwaite said that he “categorically” resisted the claim.

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