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P&O Ferries sackings spark anger in UK

The People's Assembly/Twitter @pplsassembly PO_Massacre.jpg
P&O Ferries’ decision to fire 800 seafarers without warning has drawn widespread condemnation across parliament, unions and social media.

The company made 800 seafarers redundant on March 17 via a Zoom call with no notice and no prior consultation with unions. P&O Ferries said it had to take the “difficult but necessary decision” to secure its future due to its current unsustainable financial position.

Multiple videos have circulated online of private security boarding P&O Ferries vessels to remove workers advised to stay onboard by their unions.

UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Robert Courts MP, gave a statement on the issue to the House of Commons.

“These are hardworking, dedicated staff who have given years in service to P&O. The way they have been treated today is wholly unacceptable and my thoughts are first and foremost with them,” said Courts.

“Reports of workers being given zero notice and escorted off their ships with immediate effect while being told cheaper alternatives would take up their roles shows the insensitive nature by which P&O approached this issue – a point I made clear when I spoke to the management at P&O earlier this afternoon. As I told [P&O Ferries CEO] Peter Hebblethwaite, I am extremely concerned and frankly angry at the way workers have been treated today by P&O.”

Courts said he and his department would work with the Department for Work and Pensions to assist affected seafarers, as well as discussing the situation with unions.

P&O Ferries sent a letter to employees stating that its move would save 50% on crewing costs by contracting International Ferry Management (IFM) to supply crews for its vessels. The company said its severance terms were generous and above both contractual and collective bargaining agreement terms.

P&O Ferries suspended its services ahead of the announcement on March 17, and has services will be suspended for between seven and 10 days as it seeks to train replacement crews.

Media coverage of P&O Ferries’ decision has been widespread and negative in the UK, with broad condemnation of the company’s treatment of its workers. The brand damage has been so extensive that P&O Cruises had to clarify its position in a tweet, stating "P&O Cruises is part of Carnival Corporation & PLC and as such is entirely unrelated to P&O Ferries."

Anger has also been directed at P&O Ferries owner DP World.

Demonstrations have been organised in the UK by unions Nautilus and RMT at Dover, Liverpool and Hull on March 18 under a protest call to “Stop the P&O jobs massacre.”

TAGS: Crewing Europe