A maritime union has urged the Transport Secretary to revoke P&O Ferries’ licenses in UK waters as the operator resumes service on one of its routes.
Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson has written to Grant Shapps urging the government to take urgent action against the ferry operator after it laid off 800 workers two days ago.
In a letter posted on Twitter, Mr Dickinson called on Mr Shapps to “hold P&O to account” in six ways, including revoking his licenses to operate in UK waters and pursuing “every legal option available” on the how P&O handled the mass layoffs.
He wrote: “The action of P&O Ferries, terminating the employment of 800 British seafarers with immediate effect and without any consultation, is deplorable and a betrayal of British workers.
“This decision by P&O is a blow to the UK maritime industry…we cannot sit idly by and allow P&O Ferries to sink the country’s maritime strategy.”
Mr Shapps wrote to P&O chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite on Friday and said he was ‘questioning the legality of this decision’ and reviewing P&O Ferries contracts.
It comes after the ferry operator said it was cutting the jobs in a ‘very difficult but necessary’ decision as it was ‘not a viable business‘ in its current state.
Sailings were halted on Thursday morning after the announcement, with P&O Ferries telling passengers they would remain suspended “for the next few days”.
However, on Saturday P&O announced it had resumed one of its services across the Irish Sea.
An update on the company’s Twitter feed said: ‘We have now resumed services between #POLiverpool and #PODublin. For more information on reservations, please visit our website.
Other lines remain suspended or cancelled.
Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said the company should not be allowed to resume crossings with replacement workers.
Ms Haigh said: ‘P&O must not be allowed to sail today with replacement agency staff for loyal workers wrongfully dismissed this week.
“Strong words from the government make no sense – they must step in and act.”
Meanwhile, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said around 300 people attended a protest near the Conservative Party’s Spring Forum in Blackpool.
RMT was present at the demonstration organized by Nautilus International.
East Hull Labor MP Karl Turner posted photos of them carrying banners and flags that read: ‘Save P&O jobs! Save Britain’s ferries! and “Stop P&O Jobs Going Loose” as they marched through the city streets.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden told Times Radio there was ‘revulsion’ over the actions of P&O Ferries this week, adding that the government was trying to establish whether the move was legal.
A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: ‘We made this difficult decision as a last resort and only after careful consideration of all other options, but ultimately concluded that the business would not survive without fundamentally changed crew arrangements, which in turn inevitably lead to layoffs.
“We also felt, in good faith, that it would be impossible to reach an agreement on the way forward and in this context, the process itself would be very disruptive, not only for business, but also for trade. and UK tourism.
“We have offered improved dismissal terms to those affected to properly and promptly compensate them for the lack of warning and consultation.
“The changes we’ve made bring us in line with standard industry practices.”
He added that all affected crew members working at the time were briefed in person and in person on board their vessels. Those who were absent were called, emailed or texted.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Ministers and officials have expressed outrage and frustration with P&O Ferries over their decision and the handling of their announcement, and are looking closely at the department’s relationship with the company. .
“The Transport Secretary has ordered a full review of any contract in place with P&O Ferries and DP World across the government, and the department is working closely with unions, the Department for Work and Pensions and the trustees. industry to ensure workers are supported and referred to the most relevant support.
“We have serious concerns that their handling has not followed correct and legal processes, and urge P&O Ferries to suspend the announced changes and speak with workers to redress the damage caused.”