Concerns for future of Manche Îles Express after law change poses recruitment threat

Manche Îles Express bosses fear a French law change requiring the company and staff to pay more tax could pose a recruitment challenge. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The ferry company which serves the Channel Islands and provides many of the region's sailings to France says it risks being unable to recruit in future due to a law change in the country.

Manche Îles Express' two ships - the Marin-Marie and the Victor Hugo - are registered under the French flag, so need to be on one of the country's maritime registers.

The French government has imposed new rules on the Registre International Français - or 'Rif' - which the ferry operator is registered with - designed to protect against "social dumping", the practice of replacing existing staff with overseas workers for worse pay and conditions.

P&O Ferries was accused of a similar act in March 2022 after it laid off nearly 800 members of staff and replaced them with agency workers allegedly earning around £1.80/hour.

Manche Iles' position on the Rif allowed the business and its workers to pay lower taxes than its competitors, which company bosses said made it a more attractive place to work.

However, a change brought in on Saturday 1 July meant the company is no longer eligible to be on the Rif and has been switched to another one which doesn't come with the same benefits.

Manche Îles' Express director, Nelly Depardieu, told Ouest France the company's exclusion is a misunderstanding: "We have a public contract with the Manche [regional government]. We're committed to hiring locals. That's obvious."

She added that while the impact of the law change may not be felt immediately, it likely will be in the next 12 months.

Manche Îles Express has been sailing between the Channel Islands and France since 2005. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The Channel Islands' other main ferry operator, Condor Ferries, is not affected by the new legislation - as its ships are registered in the Bahamas.

Deputy Kirsten Morel, Jersey's Minister responsible for tourism, said: "It is concerning - as I understand it, we're not expecting any impact on Manche Îles Express services, but the company is concerned it may find it harder to recruit staff in future.

"We know that Manche Îles Express are looking to speak with the French government to try and find ways around it. I wish them well in that, and I really hope they do that."

  • Deputy Kirsten Morel says the island will support the Manche regional government in preserving existing ferry routes.

The Minister added: "We have a really strong relationship with La Manche - the [regional government] which owns Manche Îles Express - we speak to them regularly about the Manche Iles Express service and I've explained to Jean Morin, the President of La Manche, that I stand ready to help him ensure that we can maintain a service to the Channel Islands."

Deputy Morel explained the company's services are a vital part of the Channel Islands' transport infrastructure: "Manche Îles Express doesn't just take us to St Malo, it also takes us to other ports like Carteret and Granville - these are historic links to the island.

"Most importantly, Manche Îles Express also provides links to the other Channel Islands - something other operators like Condor can't do as their vessels are too large. It fills a niche and allows islanders to travel between the islands."

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