Sacked P&O Ferries agency workers say they were overworked and bullied

Two agency workers hired by P&O Ferries have told ITV Meridian they have been sacked without notice because they couldn't speak English well enough.

Established maritime workers Jose Alfaro from Honduras and Hugo Corleto from Guatemala were employed as chefs through an agency on a 17 week contract on board the Pride of Kent.

But the pair say their contract has been cut short, with barely one day's notice, and they haven't been paid for their notice period.

They've described feeling "bullied" over the language barrier and say they weren't supported to work effectively.

Mr Alfaro took the contract to earn money to support his wife and three daughters.

He said: "They fired us because we don't speak English very good but on the ship there are plenty of people from other countries who have the same problem.

The workers were aboard the Pride of Kent which has failed a third safety inspection. Credit: PA

Speaking about how they were treated on board, he continued: "The contract was for 17 weeks, one day we were working then the boss came and said 'no you are supposed to leave today.'

"Our experience in this company has been very bad. I have worked in a different company like this for 25 years and this is the first time something like this has happened.

"For example we were supposed to have security training, but we couldn't understand some of the training words, and they were just laughing at us. I said 'this is bullying.'

"We know that the salary is lower than the people from here, but we came here to work. We don't know what the problem is inside the company.

  • Jose Alfaro from Honduras and Hugo Corleto say they feel they were treated unfairly

Hugo Corleto travelled to Dover from Guatemala to make money for his wife and son back at home. He said: "I'm working long hours, sometimes eleven, twelve hour days, finishing at 7pm or 7:30pm.

"I never have a day off, nothing. This problem hasn't affected the other workers from France or India or Asia. Just the Latin guys."

The workers claim they aren't alone and that other employees are allegedly too scared to speak out about their working conditions in case they are fired.

"This is why people say nothing," added Jose. "Everyone there needs to work and needs the money."

The workers are now looking for another job in a different company.

The RMT union says it is looking into claims the former PO agency staff were working over their hours and has written to the company to raise their concerns.In a statement, a spokesperson for P&O Ferries said: "A small number of seafarers (4) were released from the Pride of Kent by our Crew Manager, IFM, as they did not meet the IFM standards which are required by P&O as ship owner.

"They were provided with Hotel Accommodation by IFM and had their return flights paid. They were treated in accordance with their contracts in relation to their pay and end of contract provisions, with benefits provided beyond the contractual requirements applicable in the situation.

“P&O continue to require industry leading standards from our crews”

The workers' revelations come just a day after the ferry operator restarted Dover to Calais passenger services for the first time since it sacked 800 seafarers and replaced them with agency staff.

The Spirit of Britain is the only service which is currently operational so passengers are being warned of limited availability. A total of 23 failures were found by Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspectors on April 11. The vessel was cleared to sail 11 days later.

Inspectors found that fast rescue boats were not properly maintained and oil filtering equipment was not working.

The Spirit of Britain is the only P&O Ferries' service which is currently operational.

There were also five deficiencies with working conditions, and five relating to fire safety systems.

A P&O Ferries spokesperson said: "The safety of our passengers and crew is our foremost priority and any suggestion that it is being compromised in any way is categorically false.

"It is clear that the safety inspections of our vessels have reached an unprecedented level of rigour and we welcome this additional scrutiny to help us come back even better than before.

"We look forward to all of our ships welcoming tourist passengers and freight customers again as soon as all mandatory safety tests have been passed and we are satisfied the vessels are ready to re-enter service.

"Safety remains paramount in our new crewing management model, which is used by many of our competitors and has been proven to be a successful model in this industry."