UK

P&O Ferries latest update: Sailings suspended and fired workers block road to Port of Dover in protest

P&O Ferries has suspended its sailings after making all UK seafaring employees redundant with immediate effect.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed that the business is not “sustainable” in its current form.

“In its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business,” they said.

“As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.”

Police have intervened after sacked P&O workers blocked a road leading to the Port of Dover in response to the news.

Dozens of employees who lost their jobs on Thursday stood on the road holding banners and flags saying “Stop the P&O jobs carve up”.

It came after buses carrying agency workers hired to replace them appeared to arrive at the Kent port.

Unions have told members to stage sit-ins onboard P&O vessels.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “We have instructed our members to remain onboard and are demanding our members across P&O’s UK operations are protected and that the Secretary of State intervenes to save UK seafarers from the dole queue.”

Meanwhile, Mark Dickinson, general secretary of maritime union Nautilus International, said: “Be assured the full resources of Nautilus International stand ready to act in defence of our members.

“We believe it is in our members’ best interests to stay onboard until further notice.”

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‘In the strongest possible terms we condemn P&O,’ says International Transport Workers’ Federation

Global and European maritime unions have expressed anger at the news that P&O Ferries will move to sack its UK based seafaring workforce and outsource their jobs to non-union, agency workers.

Affiliates of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) were informed that P&O Ferries had paused services “in preparation for a company announcement” earlier today. By afternoon the company had announced to media that 800 staff that work on its vessels with immediate effect.

“The news today is shocking. In the strongest possible terms we condemn P&O. We will not accept its move to axe the jobs of its loyal seafaring workforce with no notice. We all must question how a company can literally sack its entire workforce on less than 24 hours’ notice,” said ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton.

“Our unions are awaiting further information from P&O and DP World – its major shareholder – but the ITF and ETF stand ready to mobilise support to defend these workers’ jobs. We’re deeply concerned at reports that busloads of non-union crew and ‘handcuff trained’ security are sitting in Dover and Hull, waiting to remove and replace the British-based seafarers.”

Helen Coffey17 March 2022 16:50

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Private security ‘intimidate workers’ with ‘handcuffs, tasers and balaclavas’

According to reports, private security are using handcuffs, tasers and balaclavas to allegedly “intimidate” fired P&O Ferries workers who are staging sit-ins onboard the company’s ships.

Trade unionist Susan Fitzgerald tweeted: “At Larne harbour – major warning here for the Labour movement, private security with handcuffs, tasers and balaclavas used to intimidate workers off this ship.

“RMT protest at the harbour tomorrow between 12-3, details to follow – try be there and bring others.”

Helen Coffey17 March 2022 16:39

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P&O workers block road to Port of Dover in jobs protest

Police have intervened after P&O workers blocked a road leading to the Port of Dover.

Dozens of employees who lost their jobs on Thursday stood on the road holding banners and flags saying “Stop the P&O jobs carve up”.

It came after buses carrying agency workers hired to replace them appeared to arrive at the Kent port.

A lorry driver trying to enter the port began shouting and beeping at those in the road, before being told “We’re not moving”.

Ted Hennessey17 March 2022 16:31

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Government in ‘urgent’ talks with P&O Ferries

Downing Street said the Government was not given any advance notice by P&O of the company’s plans.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said officials were in “urgent” talks to find out what the company’s plans were.

“We weren’t given any notice to this. We are speaking to the company to understand what approach it is taking,” the spokesman said.

“We do not agree with the practice of fire and rehire and would be dismayed if this is the outcome they were seeking to achieve.”

The spokesman said he did not believe the issue was discussed when Boris Johnson was in the UAE on Wednesday, even though the company is owned by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World.

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Security guards at Dover ‘seeking to board ships with handcuffs’

Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We are receiving reports that security guards at Dover are seeking to board ships with handcuffs to remove crew so they can be replaced with cheaper labour.

“We are seeking urgent legal action and are again calling for the Government to take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations.”

Labour MP Karl Turner posted a photograph on social media showing the captain of Pride of Hull addressing workers on the ship.

Mr Turner wrote: “They have support right across the city of Hull and the rest of the country, and are determined to stay on board for as long as it takes.”

Helen Coffey17 March 2022 15:47

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Pride of Hull captain has enough supplies to stay sealed in ferry “as long as it takes”

The captain of a giant P&O ferry was hailed a hero today for drawing up his gangplanks and refusing to allow police or new crewmen to board his vessel in the port of Hull.

The captain of the Pride of Hull, understood to be Eugene Fabier, sealed himself and his crew inside the ferry just hours after P&0 announced mass redundancies.

The ship normally carries a crew of 141 people aboard and is one of the biggest ferries in Europe – makes regular crossings between Hull and the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Hull’s Labour MP Karl Turner said the captain had taken matters into his own hands and was now operating under maritime law to prevent anyone coming aboard.

He added that those on the ship had enough food supplies to last “as long as it takes” to resolve the dispute.

He said: “I’m told by Gaz Jackson, who is the RMT official who is sitting in on the ship, he’s effectively locked in with the ship and the crew.

“He’s saying the captain is refusing to allow the police to enter the ship. Members have said to me that the vessel has got enough supplies to feed the crew for as long as it takes.

“As far as I understand in maritime law, even though that vessel is in a port, that captain is still entitled under maritime law to refuse any person onto his vessel.”

Mr Turner said added that staff on the ship had been treated with “utter contempt” by P&O, which is owned by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World.

He said: “They’re treating British ratings with utter contempt, and they’re treating the British government with utter contempt as well.”

Earlier today, P&O released a statement saying they would be making a “major company announcement” to ensure the long term viability of their operations.

Their statement read: “To facilitate this announcement all our vessels have been asked to discharge their passengers and cargo and standby for further instructions.

“This means we’re expecting all our ports to experience serious disruption today, so please bear with us and we will give further information in an all-colleague announcement later today.”

Lucy Thackray17 March 2022 15:27

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Lib Dems call for ‘a more responsible owner’ for P&O Ferries

The Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP, has described the decision by P&O Ferries to sack 800 seafarers as “an attack on workers” and “an absolute outrage”.

“This is simply not an acceptable way to treat employees,” she said.

“The government must step in urgently to help reduce tensions and bring people back to the table.

“If the current owners cannot manage this company properly then the government needs to consider how a more responsible owner can be brought in.

“Clearly the Conservatives also need to tighten up rules about how registered ships treat workers to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Simon Calder17 March 2022 15:16

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‘We already have to put up with all these migrants coming in’ – Dover local

“There’s going to be uproar in Dover,” said one resident, Maddie Heley, when The Independent told her about P&O Ferries’ sudden sacking of 800 seafarers – who are set to be replaced by agency staff on inferior contracts.

“We already have to put up with all these migrants coming in, and now they’re going to be employing foreign workers on the ferries.

“It [P&O Ferries] must be the biggest employer in town.”

(Simon Calder)

Simon Calder17 March 2022 15:05

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‘They were told they had five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ships’ – mother of fired worker

One woman at the Port of Dover, who does not want to be named, has a husband and son who lost their jobs overnight.

She said: “When P&O suspended sailings this morning, crews were waiting on the ships with no idea what was happening – even the captains didn’t know.

“Then pictures emerged of three coach loads of foreign workers waiting at ports to take their jobs. They were already wearing P&O uniforms – yet the staff still hadn’t been told they were being let go.

“They were told they had five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ships. These guys are week on week off workers who have called these ships home for half of the year every year.

“They have personal effects in lockers which they can’t get to – clothes, bedding, photographs and in some cases financial documents which will be taken out and thrown.

“My son is an apprentice. With 350 people competing for jobs at sea, they’re unlikely to be able to find a ferry company to take them on to finish their apprenticeships. Their coursework is on the ships waiting to be thrown out. It’s highly immoral and another insult from P&O to East Kent.”

It is understood security teams were on-hand as staff left their posts – with replacement teams of agency workers waiting for them on the dockside.

One source said,”16 handcuff-trained security people” were involved. P&O Ferries employs around 4,000 staff nationwide.

Additional reporting by agencies.

Lucy Thackray17 March 2022 14:59

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Sacked P&O workers clash with motorists

Fired P&O Ferries workers in Dover have clashed with motorists after blocking a road close to the port.

Dozens of employees who lost their jobs stood on the road with banners and flags saying “Stop the P&O Jobs carve up”.

A lorry driver trying to enter the port began shouting and beeping at those in the road, before being told, “We’re not moving”.

One of the protesters, who had worked for the company for decades, told the PA news agency: “I refuse to move from this road. All this service for nothing.

“The police will have to take me away.”

Lucy Thackray17 March 2022 14:50

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