Emergency vote

Labour demands P&O reinstates sacked crew

Demonstrating workers

Labour will force an emergency vote in Parliament on Monday to demand P&O Ferries reinstates 800 sacked crew and that ministers bring forward measures to strengthen workers’ rights.

The mass sackings without notice have been widely condemned amid reports that security firms with balaclavas and handcuffs were used to remove sacked workers from the vessels.

It has emerged that the Government was made aware of the company’s plan before it was announced last Thursday.

A Whitehall official sent a note to ministers at the Department for Transport stating: “We understand that P&O Ferries have an intention to try and re-employ many staff on new terms and conditions or use agency staff to restart routes; they estimate disruption to services lasting 10 days.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it was standard practice for officials to outline what they had been told by a private firm in an internal memo.

“This was sent before ministers were advised of the full details and as soon as they were informed, they made clear their outrage at the way in which P&O staff had been dismissed,” a DfT spokesperson said.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps had urged the company to “sit down with workers and reconsider this action”, the DfT added. Mr Shapps said he was “deeply concerned” at the move.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government is examining the legality of the firm’s actions.

Labour has called for an end to “fire and rehire” practices, though one observer noted that this is not a case of ‘rehiring’ as the workers have been replaced by new crew.

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The party wants the suspension of contracts with DP World – the owner of P&O Ferries – and the company’s removal from the UK Government’s Transport Advisory Group.

Shadow Transport Secretary, Louise Haigh said: “Labour will fight every step of the way for the jobs and livelihoods of these loyal workers.

“This scandalous action must be a line in the sand. If P&O ferries can get away with this, it will give the green light to other exploitative employers.

Chris Parker, a director at DFDS, one of P&O’s competitors, said his company is prepared to hire some of those sacked by P&O Ferries.

“We reduced the capacity of vessels quite sharply during the pandemic because of social distancing. We’re increasing that back up again now and we’re looking for some staff to come in and help us with that,” he said.

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