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Unions Slam P&O Ferries’ Abrupt ‘Mass Sacking’ of Seafarers

Mike Schuler
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March 17, 2022

Maritime unions are condemning today’s abrupt announcement by ferry operator P&O Ferries, owned by Dubai-based DP World, that it has sacked 800 UK-based crew members and suspended crossings for the next few days as its makes the transition to outsourced 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.

Unions RMT and Nautilus have instructed their members to remain onboard vessels and are demanding immediate intervention from the UK Government to stop the outsourcing of approximately 800 jobs with no notice.

“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.”

“We are shocked and angry that P&O, a company that pocketed thousands of pounds of UK taxpayer’s money during the pandemic, intends to forcefully remove crews,” said Cotton

RMT issued a statement today urging the company to protect jobs amid the speculation. The union said it has instructed members to stay on board their vessels once or risk being “locked out” of their jobs.

Nautilus International have said the news was “a betrayal of British workers”, with their General secretary Mark Dickinson slamming the company’s behaviour and pledging to fight to defend the job cuts. It’s also instructed its members to stay onboard. “There was no consultation and no notice given by P&O. Be assured the full resources of Nautilus International stand ready to act in defence of our members. We have instructed our members to stay onboard until further notice.”

“Unions across the world stand with these workers today. It is truly staggering that at a time when the world is just starting to recover from a pandemic, with a war on our doorstep, P&O can move to sack its entire workforce,” said Livia Spera, ETF General Secretary.

“Maritime unions globally will do everything we can to stop these appalling jobs cuts. We will lobby P&O shareholders, investors and customers to demand P&O reverse its aggressive and callous outsourcing attempt. These seafarers’ rights have clearly been violated – and it is astonishing that this can happen in major developed country like the UK,” said Spera.

“Instead of ambushing their workers, we strongly call on P&O to urgently meet with the UK unions to find a justifiable solution and end this clear abuse of these workers’ rights,” Spera added.

Update: RMT reports that security guards are boarding ships to remove crew.

RMT is also organizaing demonstrations for Friday.

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