The action taken by P&O Ferries in March to sack 800 British workers with no notice is a national scandal. We have since learned that these workers have been replaced with people earning just £1.80 an hour. This is a betrayal of people who protected this country’s supply chain during the pandemic. I stand firmly with the P&O workers and the work being done by unions to stand up for them.
In addition, we now also know that the Transport Secretary and Prime Minister’s offices were informed of these sackings in advance of them taking place, and it appears a window of opportunity has been missed. I believe the Government should suspend all the licences and contracts that it holds with the parent company, DP World to maximise pressure and force it to reverse course. It needs to take a serious look at its long-standing relationship with DP World.
But it’s no wonder P&O thought they could break the law when the Tories have failed to ban fire & rehire, failed to fully extend the national minimum wage to seafarers and if it wasn’t for the legal challenge from Unison we would still have Employment Tribunal fees. We need a Government that stands up for workers and I raised this in Parliament, see here. One of the Government’s responses to this situation is to uplift compensation for unfair dismissal, but the uplift is so small it isn't going to deter unscrupulous employers like P&O. You can see me raising this here.
I believe the Government should demand and ensure the minimum wage is extended to all seafarers and strengthen the shamefully weak employment protections that allowed P&O Ferries to act with impunity because they knew the penalty for failing to consult the workforce was a price worth paying. The Government should also look at every avenue in company law to see that the Chief Executive, and those responsible for brazenly flouting British law, are disqualified.
Unscrupulous employers cannot be given free rein to sack their workforce, destroying secure jobs and replacing them with cheap, insecure agency work. Condemnation, while necessary, is insufficient and more must be done to protect workers and outlaw ‘fire and rehire’ tactics. If one company can divest itself of responsibility for its workforce in such a manner without a serious response from Ministers, then others will see that as a green light to do exactly the same.