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Seafarers Wages Bill a missed opportunity to protect workers

Last year's P&O scandal brought into sharp focus the need for new legislation to protect seafarers.

The general public were shocked when Peter Hebblethwaite, the CEO of P&O Ferries, sacked 800 seafarers in the middle of the pandemic with immediate effect in order to replace them with cheaper agency staff.

Hebblethwaite used a pathetic, cowardly, pre-recorded video message to carry out the unlawful sacking of the seafarers, and suffered no personal consequences for his actions. What is even more galling is that he prospered from the scandal, being handed a promotion as a reward for his ruthlessness.

The British Government promised action and many of us were hopeful that the Seafarers' Wages Bill would be the answer.

The legislation continued to make its way through Parliament this week, reaching report stage in the House of Commons.

Several of my own Glasgow East constituents wanted to see the Bill strengthened, and I was pleased to support their calls by tabling an amendment along with my SNP colleague Gavin Newlands MP.

The amendment would have ensured that unscrupulous employers like Hebblethwaite would hold personal liability for their actions and be disqualified from holding a directorship for up to 15 years.

I am incredibly disappointed that the amendment was voted down by the Tories, who chose to protect the interests of the bosses over the rights of workers.

This Bill is better than nothing, but it is a missed opportunity to properly protect seafarers and ensure that rogue bosses like Hebblethwaite are held to account.