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P&O Ferries fires 800 seafarers without notice

P&O Ferries P&O Ferries Pride of Kent
P&O Ferries terminated 800 seafarers amidst widespread reports that they will be replaced with non-union agency labour.

The company said in a statement that it was not a viable business and that immediate changes had to be made after a £100m loss in 2021.

A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said:  “These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options. As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.”

Video circulated online of the moment P&O notified some of its staff by Zoom call that their employment was ending the same day (see Tweet below). Some 2,200 employees will remain at P&O Ferries, but the move to axe its employed seafarers has drawn condemnation from unions.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said: “The news today is shocking. In the strongest possible terms we condemn P&O. We will not accept its move to axe the jobs of its loyal seafaring workforce with no notice. We all must question how a company can literally sack its entire workforce on less than 24 hours’ notice.”

“Our unions are awaiting further information from P&O and DP World - its major shareholder – but the ITF and ETF stand ready to mobilise support to defend these workers’ jobs. We’re deeply concerned at reports that busloads of non-union crew and ‘handcuff trained’ security are sitting in Dover and Hull, waiting to remove and replace the British-based seafarers.”

TSSA called out the “fire and rehire” policy at P&O Ferries, claiming that the company encouraged staff to apply for positions through an agency, essentially re-applying for their own jobs.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said: “This is absolutely despicable behaviour from P&O, designed to reduce pay, and worsen terms and conditions for their staff. They should be ashamed of themselves, treating loyal and hardworking staff like this.”

After earlier calling for crew to remain aboard P&O vessels, the RMT union is seeking urgent legal action.

“We are receiving reports that security guards at Dover are seeking to board ships with handcuffs to remove crew so they can be replaced with cheaper labour,” said RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch.

"We are seeking urgent legal action and are again calling for the government to take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations.”

Nautilus International General Secretary Mark Dickinson called the news scandalous and a betrayal of British workers, calling for members to remain onboard until further notice.