P&O Ferries Head Apologizes For Firing 800 Seafarers; Declares Compensation To Everyone Sacked

P&O has defended its decision to fire about 800 workers without prior notice. It further added that no offences were committed, a day after the firm declared a significant compensation package. After MPs asked for confirmation laws were not broken earlier this week, Peter Hebblethwaite, the chief executive mentioned that the vessels, which were involved, were registered outside the UK and relevant authorities had been notified.

However, in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson, UK’s PM, said that it seemed to him that P&O Ferries had allegedly “broken the law”. The head mentioned that the government is going to take action. He added that such sacking seemed to be a breach of the trade union and labour relations Consolidation Act 1992.

He was motivating sacked employees to take action per the Employments Rights Act of 1996 and also highlighted that the acts had been passed by the Conservative governments.

P&O ferry
Representation Image – Credits: sailine.org.uk

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader accused the PM of handing over £50million to DP World, the Southampton port terminal operator despite the sacking.

On 23 March 2022, a third demonstration took place against the P&O sackings with speeches outside the RMT’s base in Snargate Street in Dover. It was followed by a march that ended with more speeches by protestors at the Dover Eastern Docks.

Nearly 100 protesters were there, compared to the hundreds of individuals present at the demonstrations last week on Thursday – when the sacking was first announced – and on Friday.

Organizers reported that was expected as this rally and march were declared at a short notice. They are expecting the turnout to be higher for the upcoming protest on Saturday.

The protesters marched along A20 Townwall Street while chanting slogans against low pay. Police set up a rolling roadblock, as before, and drivers patiently trundled behind the marchers until the road was clear for them again.

Several passing motorists honked their horns to show support to the protesters. Groups like the Samphire, an asylum seeker charity, showed their support for the protests. The group’s member named Kay Marsh told the marchers that it was a problem for the whole town and added that it was a national issue.

The scandal-hit firm declared a compensation package worth £36.5m that has seen 40 employees receive over £100,000, whereas some are expected to get more than £170,000. Many are set to get less than £15,000.

In a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng, Business Secretary, Hebblethwaite said that the company was aware of the “distress” caused to its workers and families on being sacked without warning but also went on to add that such an action was their last resort.

He has been invited to an evidence session conducted by the Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Transport Committees and the Commons Business to examine what are the options available to the workers who are currently unemployed and also to the government. The session will be held on Thursday.

Peter Hebblethwaite wanted to apologize to the affected individuals and their family members for the devastating impact the situation have had on them. He also wanted to say sorry to almost 2,200 people who continue to work for P&O and will be asked difficult questions regarding the matter.

It comes after almost 800 seafarers had been sacked via a video call last Thursday, and are reportedly going to be substituted by foreign staff employed at £1.80 per hour.

The ferry giant mentioned that 575 of 786 seafarers impacted are in discussions to proceed with severance offers. The firm also received a repercussion about its move to suddenly fire 800 staff members – a decision that triggered protests for two days in Dover. The incident also saw calls from MPs to bring forth a criminal prosecution.

It was suggested by Sir Roger Gale, North Thanet MP, that P&Os Pride of Kent ship needs to be renamed as the “Shame of Dubai”, as the company is owned by DP World, which is based in Dubai.

Reference: kentonline.co.uk

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