FILE PHOTO: A P&O ferry arrives at the Port of Dover, following the end of the Brexit transition period, in Dover, Britain, January 15, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

British Prime Minister Johnson Says P&O Ferries Broke Labor Laws With Mass Firings

Bloomberg
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March 23, 2022

By Siddharth Philip and Kitty Donaldson (Bloomberg) —

Prime Minister Boris Johnson turned up the political heat over the mass firing of 800 workers at P&O Ferries, accusing the company of breaking labor laws and vowing to take legal action. 

“That is the right thing to do because it seems to me that they have broken the law,” Johnson told Parliament on Wednesday. “P&O aren’t going to get away with it.”

The ferry firm’s chief executive officer apologized for last week’s abrupt dismissal of seafaring workers, offering the firm’s clearest statement of contrition.  

“There is anger and shock and I completely understand,” CEO Peter Hebblethwaite said in an emailed statement. “This was an incredibly difficult decision that we wrestled with but once we knew it was the only way to save the business, we had to act. All other routes led to the closure of P&O Ferries.”

The shipping firm sparked outrage last week by dismissing its entire U.K.-based seafaring crew without prior notice. They were replaced with outside agencies, a money-saving move that’s triggered protests and raised the prospect of legal action. 

The dismissals violated the 1992 Employment and Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, Johnson said Wednesday. 

“P&O plainly aren’t going to get away with it any more than any other company that treat its employees in that scandalous way,” Johnson said.

Hebblethwaite has been asked to respond to questions at a Parliamentary committee session on Thursday together with parent company DP World, union representatives and experts in insolvency and employment law.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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