Cross-Channel Law: Tackling Social Dumping


With very different social and wage conditions, shipping companies operating ships under European flags between Dover and Calais faced unfair competition from those sailing under flags of convenience. The new law provides for wages and days off equivalent to those enjoyed by French sailors.

The National Assembly unanimously adopted on July 19, at second reading, after a vote at first reading in March, the bill against social dumping on cross-Channel maritime transport. Only the deputies of the France Insoumise group abstained. The 150 other elected officials voted in the same terms as the Senate for the text of the law, resulting from a proposal by the Macronist deputy from Finistère, Didier Le Gac.

This new law aims to put an end to the social dumping practiced by Irish Ferries and P&O on crossings between Calais and Dover. Since the United Kingdom left the European Union, this navigation no longer constitutes an intra-European link but is subject to international rules. This situation had allowed P&O to lay off 800 sailors in March 2022 to replace them with poorly paid foreign sailors.

Rest period and penalties

Three bills were tabled last January in the Assembly by the Nupes, Renaissance and National Rally groups. The text resulting from Didier Le Gac’s bill had the support of the government, which had affirmed its commitment to act on the occasion of the Assises de la mer in November 2022. It is based on the legitimacy of the port State to guarantee safety at sea by opposing a certain number of constraints to ship operators. This therefore requires a rest period on land for sailors at least as long as their embarkation time. With the key to administrative and criminal sanctions, i.e. for the employer as many fines of 7,500 euros as there are sailors concerned.

A minimum wage

This is an important provision for employees as well as for the safety of navigation, because P&O sailors can sail for up to 17 weeks in a row without interruption, whereas before 2022 they spent a week on land for a week on board. This is the same alternation as those of Brittany Ferries on the cross-Channel, while DFDS has opted for two-week embarkations followed by two weeks of rest on land.

A minimum wage, identical to that of sailors sailing on boats flying the French flag, is also established, again with dissuasive fines which can reach 15,000 euros per sailor concerned in the event of a repeat offense by the employer.

“A defeat for the slavers”
These two measures alone are likely to put an end to the distortion of competition denounced by Brittany Ferries and DFDS, which employ European sailors. With an operating cost raised by at least a third, such is the difference between European wages and those of sailors from countries with low labor costs made available by manning companies.

Thus, the president of Brittany Ferries, Jean-Marc Roué, is delighted today with the adoption of the law which will allow his shipping company to continue to operate on the cross-Channel links boats flying the French flag. The new measures, he believes, constitute “a first defeat for the slave traders who still operate in European waters”.

“Thanks to this Le Gac law, adds Mr. Roué, Brittany Ferries, DFDS & Getlkink can hope to be able to face unfair competition from these companies with flags of convenience operating on the cross-Channel. These are destructive of wealth, both for our companies and our sailors and for the territories we serve.”

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