P&O Ferries boss to face MPs over sacking scandal
P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite has been called to appear before MPs to explain the company’s decision to sack 800 crew and replace them with a cheap labour force.
Mr Hebblethwaite, who joined P&O in 2018 and took over as chief executive last year, can expect a rough ride at an evidence session jointly held by the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Transport Committees on Thursday.
He is likely to defend the company’s actions on grounds of returning a heavily-loss making business to profitability.
However, P&O’s behaviour prompted a furious reaction from the public, trade unions and politicians across the party spectrum. Some have called for the company to reinstate the sacked workers, or face some form of sanction.
In a joint statement, the committee chairs Darren Jones and Huw Merriman said: “From P&O Ferries our members want to know why this action has been taken and how it can be justified.
“From the Government and its agencies, we want confirmation that our laws are not being broken and safety is not being compromised on our ships.
“This shocking story has raised questions about UK employment law, safety practices, the support of this business through a pandemic and the redress available.
“We intend to hear from the key players about what they are going to do that means these workers are not left high and dry.”
Eight of P&O’s ships remain in port though at least one is due to resume Dover to Calais services before the end of the week.
The company has spent £36.5 million laying its UK crew off in a settlement it describes as “the largest compensation package in the British Marine sector”.
It said 575 of the 786 crew have entered into severance talks and that support is being given to help them find a new job at sea or onshore.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), said that “the pay in lieu of notice is not compensation.
“It is just a payment staff are contractually entitled to as there was no notice given.”
The company dismissed claims made in the Commons that the new crew were being paid just £1.80 an hour, but declined to say how much they were receiving.