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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Government knew about P&O sackings day before announcement, says No10

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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham says Government should consider nationalising P&O

Burnham added: “I say to the Prime Minister: you have to step in and you have to deliver on your commitment to strengthen employment law so this kind of gangster practice can’t be allowed to happen any more.”

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Downing Street warns P&O Ferries it is ‘looking very closely’ at sackings

Downing Street has warned P&O Ferries it is “looking very closely” at the legality of its decision to sack 800 seafarers.

The staff were fired without notice on Thursday and replaced with cheaper agency workers.

Demonstrations are being held at ports on Friday, with unions calling for a boycott of the company.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government was looking to see if P&O has broken rules.

“We are looking very closely at the actions that this company has taken to see whether they acted within the rules,” the spokesman said.

“Once we have concluded that, we will decide what the ramifications are.

“Obviously there are a lot of valid questions in relation to existing contracts.”

He said companies should only make “extreme decisions to secure the future of their business if all other avenues have failed”, adding: “We don’t believe this was the case for P&O staff but we are looking into this very carefully.”

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Grant Shapps condemns P&O ferries over sackings

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has criticised the way P&O Ferries handled the sacking of 800 seafarers.

He told Sky News: “If you need to reshape your company, if you need to make people redundant, there are laws and rules to do that.

“One thing not to do is record a video on Zoom and play it 30 minutes before people are dismissed.

“If you need to get rid of people, because you need to change the shape of a company, you need to sit around the table with them and discuss those redundancies.

“I want to see the P&O management do that even now. It’s not too late for them to sit down with the workers, sit down with the unions, and I’ll be putting pressure on all sides for them to do that.

“But I’ll be going further. I’ll be looking at whether there are contracts the Government might have with P&O. I’ve asked my officials, legal teams, to look at whether they exist.”

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Protesters gather outside ferry terminal in Hull

Around 200 protesters gathered outside the ferry terminal compound in Hull before marching onto the site and banging on the doors of the terminal building.

The marchers, including a number of sacked workers, walked past the tied-up Pride of Hull ferry but got no response from anyone inside the P&O building.

Outside the gates, the rally was addressed by union officials as well as former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Labour’s Hull East MP Karl Turner.

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Further reaction from P&O sackings

Rachel Suff, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: “Business leaders must recognise that sacking staff on the spot via video, and with no notice, is inhumane and very difficult to justify, whatever the circumstance.

“While it is a harsh reality that organisations sometimes must make job cuts, there is never any excuse for employers not to fully consider the wellbeing and financial costs to workers, and how to minimise these.

“Businesses that fail to meet their legal and moral obligations to consult and treat people fairly face significant risks and costs and, just as importantly, will suffer long-lasting damage to staff morale and employment relations, as well as to their reputation and brand.

“Employers should always act with integrity and compassion and respect the dignity of their staff throughout the process if they have to take decisions that impact people’s employment.”

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Law firm says sacked employees ‘may have strong case’ for unfair dismissal

Commenting on P&O’s decision, Jeremy Coy, senior associate in the employment team at Russell-Cooke, said: “P&O’s decision to make a large number of employees redundant without apparent warning or consultation is not unprecedented but usually employers do give some notice or warning.

“Given the scale and the consequences of the decision it has understandably resulted in wide news coverage. By law, where employers propose to make 20 or more employees redundant within a period of 90 days or less, they must consult on the proposal with representatives of the affected employees through unions or other elected representatives.

“Where they do not, however, this does not mean employees cannot be dismissed. It means that they may have strong claims for unfair dismissal and for a failure to consult which would typically entitle them to claim compensation but not to insist they are rehired.

“Only time will tell whether P&O will reconsider their decision or perhaps more likely reach a financial agreement with the employees.”

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City comment: P&O Ferries’ Dubai owners can afford to treat sailors much better than this

P&O Ferries’ decision to sack its 800 British crew and replace them with agency staff is scandalous.

The operator of Channel crossings cancelled all ships yesterday morning and told staff to expect a “major company announcement”. The big announcement was they were all fired on the spot.P&O claims it had made “very difficult but necessary decision” to “secure the future viability of our business”.“

We have made a £100 million loss year-on-year, which has been covered by our parent DP World,” it said. “This is not sustainable.”

That might sound reasonable until you take even the most cursory look at DP World’s finances. Last week — last week! — the company was shouting about “record” results, with profits up 15% to $3.8 billion and a healthy margin of 35.5%. It is owned by Dubai’s sovereign wealth fund, which has assets of £200 billion. This is hardly breadline stuff.

Read our story here.

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Long queues at Dover port

Lorries queues have sparked at the Port of Dover after P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices.

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover after P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices.

/ PA

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P&O must ‘come up with a different plan’ says Labour MP

Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East called on the Government to force P&O to “come up with a different plan”.

Mr Turner told the BBC: “What I say to the Government is you’ve got to get P&O into a position where they’re prepared to negotiate with the trade union members.

“And they’ve got to come up with a different plan. They can’t just summarily dismiss people without any consultation or notice. It’s 800 jobs across the country.”

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