Mr Sunak condemned the treatment of P&O staff as “appalling” and confirmed that ministers are examining whether the operator’s parent company, DP World, complied with workers’ rights “as it should have”.
Protests continue in Hull, and other ports where P&O operates, after seafarers were sacked in a pre-recorded video call last Thursday and told they would be replaced by agency staff at lower rates.
It has led unions and workers to condemn the lack of consultation and the ethical ‘fire and rehire’ employment practices being adopted by multinational companies such as DP World.
Meanwhile, P&O ships like the Pride of Hull remain in dock as Archbishop Stephen Cottrell challenges Dubai-based DP World to reconsider its decision.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of the redundancies of Hull-based P&O staff members,” the Archbishop said. “This has been done without resorting to any of the usual processes, nor does it treat workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.
“I call on P&O management to reconsider this decision, especially in light of the huge profits being made by its parent company. If P&O is not prepared to correct this mistake, I sincerely hope that the Secretary of State for Transport will use all available powers to step in and restrict the company’s ability to operate until the matter is satisfactorily resolved.”
Sunak did not indicate that loss-making P&O should repay the £15m it received in leave and covid-19 payments at a time when DP World, which specializes in freight logistics, saw a rise of earnings of 5.9% in 2021 to 896 million dollars.
“What we are seeing is appalling. The way they have treated their workers is horrible. It’s wrong,” he told the BBC. “We are examining not only these actions, and whether they (P&O) complied with the regulations as they should have, but also our relationship with the company.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in response to the Archbishop’s intervention: “Ministers and officials have expressed their outrage and frustration with P&O Ferries over their decision and handling of their announcement, and are considering closely the Department’s relationship with the company.
“We have serious concerns that their handling has not followed the correct and legal processes, and we strongly urge P&O Ferries to stop the announced changes and speak to workers to repair the damage caused.”
P&O did not respond to phone calls and emails from this newspaper.
ministers appear to be at odds over the future involvement of Dubai-based DP World, owners of P&O, with the government’s flagship ‘free ports’.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak stressed yesterday that these are still “different things” just six months after being the guest of honor at the launch of the London Gateway Freeport.
He said at the time that he was “delighted that DP World is investing £300m to support Thames Freeport, creating new opportunities, driving growth and supporting local jobs”.
But the government says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps “has ordered a full government-wide review of any existing contracts with P&O Ferries and DP World.”
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This notice was published: 2022-03-21 07:31:02