Boris Urged To Make P&O Owner DP World Pariah

Advertisement

The TUC says that in addition to finding another operator for P&O’s routes, ministers must: Immediately cancel all contracts until the workers are reinstated with DP world – including lucrative deals to run UK freeports; Kick DP World off its Transport Advisory Group – and any other government advisory groups … Report LDD Newsdesk

The Trade Union Congress, Britain’s largest worker’s forum, asked the government to make Dubai-owned DP World pariah to force them to reinstall 800 workers operating P & O Ferries.  

The TUC said the government must be prepared to take over the running of P&O Ferries’ passenger and freight services “as a last resort”.

“Ministers must step in to run services if a ‘fit and proper’ operator cannot be found quickly to replace P&O, according to the union body,” the worker’s forum said in a statement.

The TUC says that P&O’s reliance on recruiting agency workers well below the minimum wage in order to operate demonstrates it is not a viable or sustainable financial operation. It has been reported that the agency workers from India replacing sacked staff are being paid as little as £1.80 an hour – well below the UK minimum wage of £9.50 an hour.

The call comes as “disgraced” P&O bosses face the scrutiny of the business, energy and industrial strategy and transport select committees today, in a one-off session focusing on the scandal.

P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite has admitted to MPs that a decision to sack 800 workers without consulting the unions broke the law.

He said there was “absolutely no doubt” that under UK employment law the firm was required to consult unions before making the mass cuts.

“We chose not to consult and we are, and will, compensate everybody in full for that,” he said.

He said no union would have accepted P&O’s job slashing plans.

Addressing a committee of MPs on Thursday, Mr Hebblethwaite said workers would receive “extremely generous” compensation, although as part of these settlements they would forgo their right to pursue further legal action against P&O.

Asked whether P&O broke the law by not consulting the unions, Mr Hebblethwaite said: “We’ve moved from one operating model to another. It was our assessment that the change was of such a magnitude that no union could possibly accept our proposal.”

He told MPs that the average hourly rate of pay for new P&O crewmembers would be £5.15 per hour, which is below the UK minimum wage. However, it is in line with international maritime standards. From 1 April, the UK minimum wage for people aged 23 and over will be £9.50.

The TUC says there is a clear precedent for the government stepping in to keep vital services running. In the rail industry, the Department of Transport (DfT) has stepped in to run intercity passenger services on the East Coast Mainline on two separate occasions following the failure of franchises run by Train Operating Companies.

The TUC says having the government as an operator of last resort would provide much-needed stability to the UK’s shipping industry too.

The disruption to P&O’s services has already caused alarming backlogs in freight delivery and this is leading to supply shortages.

The TUC says P&O’s owner DP World must be given “pariah status’ after it unlawfully sacked 800 crew without consultation. UK law requires companies to consult with workers and unions before making redundancies, which P&O has admitted it failed to do.

The TUC says that in addition to finding another operator for P&O’s routes, ministers must: Immediately cancel all contracts until the workers are reinstated with DP world – including lucrative deals to run UK freeports; Kick DP World off its Transport Advisory Group – and any other government advisory groups; Urgently bring forward an employment bill to ban exploitative working practices and increase penalties for breaking employment law.

“Everyone should be paid a fair wage for a day’s work,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “If P&O can’t operate without breaking redundancy law and hiring agency workers on a pittance, it hasn’t got a viable business model. The government must be prepared to step in and take over P&O’s freight and passenger services if a fit and proper operator cannot be found quickly. This has happened before in other sectors and would bring much-needed stability.”

On the need to impose proper financial sanctions against the company, Frances added: “This is a watershed moment for the UK shipping industry and for workers’ rights in Britain.

“Under no circumstances can P&O be allowed to get away with its scandalous treatment of staff. Its owner must be given pariah status and lose all its government shipping and freeport contracts with immediate effect until workers are reinstated.”

There are significant concerns about P&O’s ability to operate safely – especially given the loss of so many highly-trained and qualified staff.

Ships that operate under a UK flag require a certificate from the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) to operate from UK ports. However, because P&O’s ferries are flagged to other states they do not require any MCA certificate.

The TUC says it is vital that P&O vessels are not allowed to leave port before proper inspections are completed and any issues identified fully resolved.