17 March 2022 – today’s (other) press release

P&O Ferries: Govt must step in

Responding to the announcement of P&O Ferries laying off 800 workers with immediate effect, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Today’s underhanded action by P&O is an attack on workers. It is an absolute outrage.

This is simply not an acceptable way to treat employees and the government must step in urgently to help reduce tensions and bring people back to the table.

If the current owners cannot manage this company properly then the government needs to consider how a more responsible owner can be brought in.

Clearly the Conservatives also need to tighten up rules about how registered ships treat workers to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

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17 Comments

  • nigel hunter 18th Mar '22 - 8:55am

    Is this the beginning of ‘The Freeport era”? The removal of legal rights for workers ,tax breaks etc for overseas companies ie Arab (P&O owned by one).

  • John Barrett 18th Mar '22 - 9:34am

    The company should not get away with this.

    Saying the workers have been made redundant is a lie, as their jobs still exist and those jobs have been given to others. Redundancy is when the job no longer exists.

    Unless they are stopped, and this action reversed, other employers will assume they can get away with similar action and more job losses will follow.

  • David Goble 18th Mar '22 - 9:37am

    What worries me, apart from the problems of workers’ rights, is that a large amount of our trade is carried by P&O, primarily to Europe on the Calais route and inter-UK between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Is this trade to be left to the whims of a company in Dubai?

  • Robin Grayson 18th Mar '22 - 10:03am

    Maritime regulations exist that request and require each and every vessel of P&O size to have a full complement of fully qualified crew in order to satisfy regulations for navigation, health and safety of crew and passengers, maintenance of electrical systems, marine insurance and so forth. Therefore the Government has a legal duty to cancel the seaworthiness of all P&O vessels, and for UK ports to allow them to maintain docking slots for loading and unloading vessels. It can be deemed unsafe to man a P&O ship without a fully qualified crew with long experience of operating that ship. Unless and until P&O reinstate the existing crews , the government can deem the P&O ships hazards to shipping and withdraw all certification for these vessels and the company.

  • David Goble is right to be concerned and I agree with John Barrett.

    I don’t suppose it’ll happen under this Tory government, but I wouldn’t rule out nationalisation of the P & O Ferry Companies as a vital national asset. Anyone with a smidgeon of historical knowledge will recall that many Liberals in far off long ago days supported this for the railways and coal mines….. even the worthy Sir Vince advocated it for the banks in more recent times.

    As to Dubai, their human rights record towards foreign workers, women and LGBT people is appalling. It’s comes as no surprise that during the 2010 election the Guardian reported some major Dubai donors to the Tory Party had been given personal access to Cameron……. something conveniently ignored days later by a future prominent receiver of Facebook largesse.

  • nvelope2003 18th Mar '22 - 8:50pm

    P & O behaved disgracefully but what about the alleged £100, 000,000 loss?

  • What i cannot understand is why P&O did not target Irish French and Dutch workers.Is there a brexit story here where they are protected but ours are not?

  • @nvelope2003
    >“what about the alleged £100, 000,000 loss?”
    Well they can ask their biggest shareholder, the Dubai government.
    From what I can see this is a manufactured accounting loss caused by using debit to pay dividends…

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Mar '22 - 10:19am

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/mar/19/ministers-told-in-advance-about-po-mass-sackings
    “Government ministers knew about P&O Ferries’ plan to slash 800 jobs before staff were informed but were told by officials it would ensure the firm remained “a key player in the UK market for years to come”, it was claimed on Saturday.

    A leaked memo, apparently written by a senior Whitehall official, justified the mass redundancies, stating that “without these decisions, an estimated 2,200 staff would likely lose their jobs”.

    The memo, said to have been written before ferry staff were told their jobs were being lost last Thursday, said the redundancies “will align them [P&O] with other companies in the market who have undertaken a large reduction in staff previously”.

    The memo was “widely shared across government”, including copies to the prime minister’s private office while the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is understood to have received a copy, the Sunday Times reported.”

  • @ nvelop2003 asks “what about the alleged £100, 000,000 loss ?”

    He must have missed the news on 3rd January that P & O Ferries (DP World) recently paid out £ 247 million in dividends to its Dubai Shareholders, and then splashed £ 147 million to sponsor the 2022 European Golf Tour (now renamed the DP World tour).

    P & O Ferries also ignored calls to fund the firm’s pension pot. The Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund (MNRPF), for P&O retirees, now has a £146m deficit, but P & O Ferries’ owners (multinational logistics firm DP World) has so far failed to stump up the cash.

    Does Mr envelop now agree that this grand total of £ 394 million could more than cover the claimed £ 100 million loss ?

  • David Raw, I did say “alleged”. However,it would not normally be advisable to subsidise loss making activities from the profits generated by other parts of a business. There is an acute labour shortage in Europe including the UK but an acute shortage of jobs elsewhere. These jobs could help the unemployed in places where there are few jobs because they are not welcome here apparently except to move cargo in ships or trucks because it is very hard to get people to do the unsocial hours required as I know from my years working in transport. Work on ships is useful to people who don’t live here. I understand DFDS have offered jobs to some of those made redundant. The owners of P & O seem to have been particularly greedy.

  • @nvelope2003
    >“However,it would not normally be advisable to subsidise loss making activities from the profits generated by other parts of a business. “

    Cross-subsidy was a well established practise some decades back, the history of GEC/Marconi is a good illustration of this in action and how a blue-chip company was destroyed in part by management adopting the invogue management mindset of short-termism and maximising shareholder return….

    Given the way DP World is structured, I suggest only someone inside their Finance Department could definitely say to what extent P&O’s UK ferries operation is or isn’t profitable. Back of the envelope calculations indicates that the impact of the current shenanigans of firing one group of workers and replacing them with “cheaper” workers – with no reduction in sailings etc., will have a marginal impact on the profitability of P&O Ferries. However, where it may impact is the size of payments needed to satisfy outstanding pensions obligations.

    There is no real labour shortage in the UK, there is just a shortage of businesses appreciating that they need to train and pay decent wages if they are to attract people – remember the wake-up call industry got over HGV drivers – a shortage created by the haulage industry over several decades, yet they expected government to bale them out…

  • Malcolm Todd 21st Mar '22 - 9:36am

    Roland
    “Cross-subsidy was a well established practise some decades back”
    Really? Seems an odd thing for a business to do – unless as a way of investing in a new industry or tiding over a temporary downturn, but that’s hardly what we’re talking about here.

    But in any case, the question of profit and loss is more or less irrelevant here. The two big issues are – (1) regardless of whether the business has long-term viability or not, it can’t be allowed to ignore legal and moral obligations to its workforce; (2) having a significant company of this sort owned by a foreign government (or proxy thereof) is a catastrophically short-sighted policy. (And it’s part of why trade deficits do matter, despite what some denizens of this site like to tell us!)

  • @Malcolm Todd
    >Seems an odd thing for a business to do
    Not really, remember “investing in a new industry or tiding over a temporary downturn” can be multi-decade activities and can be regarded as being the cost of being a player in some markets…

    However, I do agree with the two big issues you identify. I suspect Brexit has had something to do with it, as prior to Brexit P&O Ferries HQ would have been subject to UK/EU law and all of P&O Ferries routes would have been within the EU, now with the UK outside of the EU…

    There is a third issue, namely, just how out of touch Whitehall were on this matter, giving ammunition to those wishing to reform Whitehall. Also, we shouldn’t forget the Tory’s scuppered the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill in October 2021.

  • nvelope2003 21st Mar '22 - 2:33pm

    Roland, One of the reasons why employers are reluctant to spend money on training is the way the trained go to work for another firm as soon as they have qualified, some times without doing even one day’s work. You can sue in the courts if you have nothing to do and all day to do it in but no guarantee of getting any money.
    Labour shortage is real since we left the EU and opportunities are being lost not just in the field of transport.

  • @nvelope2003
    One of the reasons why employers are reluctant to spend money on training is the way the trained go to work for another firm as soon as they have qualified

    That chestnut and the mindset behind it, that successive governments and business leaders have failed to really address and has been the scourge of UK industry for decades. Trouble is I don’t see the Conservatives (or Labour) tackling it anytime soon, so even more opportunities will be lost…

    I appreciate having spent an entire working life in IT, a sector that has a permanent shortage of skilled workers, I have a very different viewpoint to those who have worked in sectors that traditionally relied on and exploited ready access to large numbers of cheap semi-skilled workers.

  • nvelope2003 25th Mar '22 - 8:36pm

    The industry I worked in did not exploit or have access to large numbers of cheap workers semi skilled or skilled. I was not hostile to trade unions and I don’t support P & O’s actions.

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