P&O Ferries to face criminal probe over sackings
Criminal and civil investigations have been launched into the decision by P&O Ferries to sack nearly 800 workers without notice.
The move follows public outrage over the company’s behaviour, including an admission by its chief executive that it broke the law.
UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the Insolvency Service has now begun “formal criminal and civil investigations” and that he will be “follow this matter closely” along with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
Dean Beale, inspector general of the Insolvency Service said in a letter to Mr Kwarteng: “‘Following its enquiries, I can confirm that the Insolvency Service has initiated both formal criminal and civil investigations into the circumstances surrounding the recent redundancies made by P&O Ferries.
“We will publish a short statement today confirming the above position and as you will appreciate, whilst these investigations are being progressed. It would not be appropriate for me to make further comment at this time. I will provide a further update in due course.”
Mr Shapps said: “The Insolvency Service has reviewed P&O Ferries’ actions and placed it under criminal investigation for its actions.
“Peter Hebblethwaite stood before MPs and admitted to breaking the law, and his actions must now be scrutinised”.
Mr Hebblethwaite told MPs in an appearance before a Commons select committee last week that his company broke the law by not consulting with trade unions before sacking 786 workers. He insisted the company would not have survived without taking such action and that he would do the same again. The company replaced the sacked workers with agency crew on lower wages.
On Wednesday, the Transport Secretary unveiled a package of measures in response to the sackings.
They included plans to create “minimum wage corridors” on ferry routes between the UK and other countries
He also urged UK ports to refuse access to boats carrying seafarers paid below the minimum wage, and asked the Insolvency Service to consider disqualifying Mr Hebblethwaite from acting as a company director.