Protesters demand a ‘fair deal’ for workers

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PROTESTERS waved banners and demanded a ferry company pays overseas workers the minimum wage.

Around 40 activists gathered at Portsmouth International Ferry Port to voice their anger at Condor Ferries paying Ukrainian crew just £2.35 an hour.

On a sunny Saturday morning, the protesters marched to the entrance of the port, shouting for the firm to bring an end to what they call ‘social dumping’.

Ferry passengers drove past the demonstration as they boarded the ships.

The RMT union organised a similar demonstration in Portsmouth last month and has also protested at Southampton.

Unionists say the Channel Island ferry operator is using legal loopholes to pay Ukrainian crew below the UK minimum wage.

Mick Stubbs, RMT shipping branch chairman, said: ‘We have got people here working on this ship who have been brought from the Ukraine to work for £2.35 an hour.

‘In the first instance, that’s not fair, that’s exploitation.

‘For the jobs round here, even the minimum wage is £6.30.

‘Local people can’t compete for those jobs at £2.35 an hour.

‘That’s why we are protesting. It’s unfair to bring people from the other side of Europe when local seafarers are out of work.’

He said the Ukrainians would work 70 hours a week for three months before having a month off.

Mr Stubbs added: ‘We support the workers on there and have nothing against the Ukrainians, but we want to see a fair deal.

‘Twenty years ago all these ships had seafarers from the local area. Local people should be able to compete for the jobs.

‘Condor have told us they are paying good wages for somebody who comes from the Ukraine.

‘If they got off the ship, it’s going to cost them a day’s wages just to go and have a meal.’

Clare Blackwell, 25, from Portsmouth, a member of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, was one of those waving a banner.

She said: ‘We think you should be paid for the job you do, not for your nationality.’

Condor has admitted some of its crew are paid £2.35 an hour, but said they earned four times the average wage in Ukraine.

About 90 per cent of its crew are recruited within the European Union.

A spokesman for Condor Ferries said only 14 out of 50 Ukrainian-recruited crew members earned the ‘entry-level’ pay rate and those with specialist skills were paid higher. He said: ‘All of our Ukrainian crew benefit from free transport to and from Ukraine, food, comprehensive medical and dental cover and all food and lodging during their 12-week stay on board with no deductions.’

Managing director Ken Soar has said the company is a ‘diligent and concerned’ employer.