Cross-Channel traffic: social storm over the P&O company

Cross-Channel traffic between England and France has been severely disrupted for two weeks. The ships of the P&O company are blocked in the United Kingdom, a social crisis is open.

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Two weeks ago, overnight, some 800 employees of the P&O company were fired. They must be replaced by workers paid below the minimum wage. The brutal way in which these people were sent back shocked: by simple video message sent via Zoom, the internet exchange platform for teleworking. Since then, strikes have multiplied.

The management of P&O – whose parent company DP World is based in Dubai – explains that the group is losing 100 million pounds sterling a year (nearly 120 million euros) because of the pandemic which decimated travel for a year and a half. Today we have to cut costs and probably lay off the remaining 2,000 employees. Without faith or law, P&O explains that employees recruited and paid five pounds per hour (6.50 euros) instead of the nine pounds of the minimum wage, will be provided by an outsourcing agency, hired in India, the Philippines, Colombia and other low-wage countries.

The new proposed remuneration corresponds to international standards of maritime transport, according to the company. Taken by plane to the United Kingdom, the employees concerned remain on board the ships for several weeks and therefore technically in international territory, which allows them to be paid below the European salary.

The British government promises to act to put an end to these practices and obtain the departure of the boss of P&O. Here we touch on the shortcomings of globalization that is not, or too little, regulated with the question of social competition. Cheap employees are flown to Europe by planes, the arm of the legislation in force is twisted by stratagems each more vicious than the other. P&O has just killed its notoriety, which is very little compared to the hundreds of British and Irish families hit by this episode and who find themselves on the floor.

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