The firm says the shock decision is necessary to keep the company viable, however Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he is “concerned” about the situation, and a statement on P&O is expected today at 5 p.m.
The Dubai-owned company is believed to be aiming to replace workers with labor through an agency.
In Hull, members of two unions are believed to be sitting on the Pride of Hull ship, which makes regular trips between the port of Yorkshire and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The Yorkshire Post has been told that the gangway was raised by staff and the locks were removed, preventing anyone else from getting on board.
The unions ordered the workers currently on board the ships not to leave.
Coaches carrying agency workers hired to replace them are parked near ships in ports.
P&O Ferries said in a statement: “As it stands, P&O Ferries is not a viable business.
“We have had a loss of £100m year on year, which has been covered by our parent company DP World. This is not sustainable.
“Our survival depends on making quick and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries”.
He added that after “seriously considering all available options” he had made the “very difficult but necessary decision” to issue immediate dismissal notices to 800 seafarers.
Those laid off will be compensated for failure to notify with “enhanced compensation packages.”
Grant Shapps tweeted today: “I am very concerned about the news from P&O Ferries this morning and we will speak to the company today to understand the impact on workers and passengers.
“It is important to note that other operators continue to run cross-Channel routes, so passengers and freight can flow, but I am working with the Kent Resilience Forum to minimize disruptions.”
Hull East MP Karl Turner called the actions “disgusting”.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “This is predatory capitalism.”
He added: “They are owned by Dubai, they have received £10m from the British taxpayer in license money alone during the pandemic.
“After that, they have received millions of pounds in grants on top of that, and they are treating British taxpayers and British workers with total contempt.”
Mark Dickinson, General Secretary of the shipping union Nautilus International, said: “The news that P&O Ferries is laying off the crew of its entire UK fleet is a betrayal of British workers.
“It is nothing short of scandalous given that this Dubai-owned company received millions of pounds of British taxpayer money during the pandemic.
“There was no consultation or notification from P&O.
“Rest assured that the full resources of Nautilus International are ready to act in defense of our members.
“We believe it is in our members’ best interest to remain on board until further notice.”
MPs Transport Select Committee Chairman Huw Merriman said: “The developing story that P&O may lay off hundreds of crew members to replace them with overseas labor is deeply worrying.
“The government must do everything possible to ensure that this terrible employment transaction cannot be completed. There remain concerns about whether this is legal. Laying off loyal staff and replacing them with cheaper labor from elsewhere is not a model that the public will use.
“That model was not acceptable when our national flag carrier tried to adopt it, and it is not acceptable now. The government must make it clear that it will not condone this behavior.
“P&O’s parent company, DP World, must understand that UK clients will not do business with companies that treat their staff with contempt.”
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This notice was published: 2022-03-17 14:59:04