Sacked P&O Ferries Staff March On Parliament To Demand Action
The leader of the main union representing P&O Ferries crew, who were made redundant last week, has said the firm is taking “an unacceptable risk” by employing cheaper overseas labour.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, was speaking as he led a march of several hundred demonstrators through central London to a rally outside parliament.
A Commons debate will take place later about the action of P&O Ferries. On Thursday morning it told 800 seafarers working on its cross-Channel, North Sea and Irish Sea vessels that their employment had ended, and that cheaper agency staff would replace them.
Addressing the union’s safety concerns, a spokesperson for the ferry firm said: “Safety is the utmost priority for P&O Ferries and our crewing management partners. They have recruited high-quality experienced seafarers, who will now familiarise themselves with the ships, going through all mandatory training requirements set out by our regulators.
“Safety is paramount in our new crewing management model, which is used by many of our competitors and has been proven to be the most successful model in this industry and the competitive baseline.
“We will not be reducing crewing numbers. We don’t have a business if we don’t have a safe business.”
But Mr Lynch said: “There is no way that they can achieve a safety certificate in the normal fashion, having recruited people from all around the world.
“They’re taking an unacceptable risk with lorry drivers, with passengers.
“The government has got to stop now, and impound those ships.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, said: “If an egregious action like this can be gotten away with, it will give the green light to bad bosses all over the world that they can come to this country and exploit our workforce.”
The opposition is calling on the government to suspend every contract with both P&O Ferries and its parent company, DP World.
Ms Haigh also demanded that the business secretary, Kwazi Kwarteng, begin criminal proceedings “for the unlawful sacking of 800 seafarers”.
The union claims that the replacement crew are being paid £1.83 per hour – one-fifth of the UK’s national minimum wage.
The former Labour communications director, Alastair Campbell, tweeted: “This is what the Brexit disaster capitalists wanted all along.”
The P&O spokesperson said: “We took this difficult decision as a last resort and only after full consideration of all other options but, ultimately, we concluded that the business wouldn’t survive without fundamentally changed crewing arrangements, which in turn would inevitably result in redundancies.”
P&O Ferries said it had lost £100m in the course of a year,.