Today (17 March 2022) P&O Ferries announced a program of work to become a more competitive and efficient operator. That so-called program of work involved cancelling all of its scheduled crossings for the day and holding vessels in port while the workforce was told by management via a Zoom call that 800 would be losing their jobs. Only to be immediately replaced with agency staff, who were waiting outside the vessels to take over. Also on the dockside were company employed security guards, handcuffs hanging from their utility belts, who it seems, would be instructed to remove any of the workforce who wanted to protest at their shameful treatment. On one P&O ferry in Hull docks, a number of the seafarers held a peaceful sit-in protest (at the time of writing we are unaware what demands were made or if any have been met).
While some of the ship’s officers were told they could reapply for their jobs (no doubt on worse terms and conditions – the dreaded fire and rehire) the other ship ratings were told they could only seek employment with the agencies now tasked with supplying the direct labour. 800 workers who would have given many years of loyal service only to be treated in such contempt by their employer. P&O Ferries is owned by DP World the Emirati multinational logistics business owned by Dubai World (a sovereign wealth fund). DP World announced a little over a week ago that it had generated $10.7 billion in revenue in 2021 and increased its EBITDA by a whopping 15% to $3.8 billion. Not bad going during a pandemic.
Should we really have expected a different approach to employee relations from DP World? Hardly, in 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic, DP World was happy to accept UK Government furlough money for 1,400 of its P&O workforce but still went ahead and made 1,100 of them redundant!
That P&O Ferries in its actions today, was able to ignore the statutory minimum consultation period for redundancy of 45 days, demonstrates how weak the law is in protecting UK workers. As the head of the European seafarers’ union said in a quote to the Guardian newspaper:
it is “astonishing that this can happen in major developed country like the UK”.Livia Spera, ETF.
Anti*Capitalist Resistance is not astonished that this has happened in the United Kingdom. We have some of the most stringent anti-trade union laws and employers are able to ignore laid down procedures, without fear, procedures that are there to protect the workforce. Remember these are the very same anti-trade union laws that successive Labour governments had the opportunity to repeal, but the so-called party of trade unionism and the working class chose not to. We continue to live with that shameful legacy today.
Anti*Capitalist Resistance stands in solidarity with the RMT and Nautilus trade unions and those workers at P&O Ferries who through no fault of their actions have lost their jobs. We call on everyone in the trade union and labour movement to condemn DP World and P&O Ferries. We also ask that the mandated consultation period is started with the trade unions and the UK government does everything it can to retain jobs in this important sector of the economy.
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