Unions push back against abrupt firing of hundreds of U.K. ferry workers | CBC News


Unions protested at British ports Friday, demanding the federal government step in to avoid wasting jobs and defend key commerce routes after main ferry operator P&O Ferries fired 800 U.Okay. crew members to switch them with cheaper contract employees.

P&O has cancelled all its ferry crossings between Britain and continental Europe, threatening to disrupt the motion of travellers and items throughout the English Channel and North Sea for days.

The British authorities expressed outrage on the mass firings — done over Zoom message — however urged it may do little to reverse them. The employees cuts got here after P&O obtained hundreds of thousands in British authorities assist through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated he felt shock and dismay at P&O’s “insensitive and brutal therapy of its workers.”

Throughout a Conservative Get together assembly in Blackpool, northwest England, Shapps stated he was ” whether or not there are contracts the federal government might need with P&O” that might be used to stress the corporate.

Union decries ‘crocodile Tory tears’

Unions accused the Conservative authorities of taking too mild a contact with massive companies. Gordon Martin of the RMT transport union accused the federal government of crying “crocodile Tory tears” and stated weak British labour legal guidelines have been permitting “bandit capitalism” to grow to be rife.

Protesters collect outdoors the Port of Hull to show in opposition to P&O Ferries on Friday in Hull, England. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Photos)

Unions have lengthy objected to “hearth and rehire” insurance policies that permit firms hearth employees and re-employ them on worse phrases. Below British labour legal guidelines, such excessive motion is simply meant to be performed after in depth session with employees.

“We do not consider this was the case for P&O employees, however we’re wanting into this very fastidiously,” stated Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson, Max Blain.

He stated it was “too early to be definitive” about whether or not P&O had breached labour legal guidelines.

The corporate’s drastic motion may trigger wider financial disruption. The corporate cancelled ferry crossings on routes linking England to Eire, Northern Eire the Netherlands and France, together with the cross-Channel Dover-Calais route that carries a big chunk of U.Okay.-Europe passengers and freight.

The federal government stated the suspension may final every week to 10 days however insisted it didn’t anticipate “main disruption” as a result of different ferry firms continued to ply the routes.

Ferry operator defends job cuts

P&O stated it had no selection however to chop prices after the pandemic hammered its funds, main it to publish a 100-million-pound ($132-million US) loss final yr. The ferry operator, a unit of Dubai-government-owned logistics large DP World, stated its survival was “depending on making swift and important modifications now.”

The Pleasure of Hull ferry, operated by P&O Ferries Ltd., stays moored on the Port of Hull in England on Friday. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Photos)

Chief govt Peter Hebblethwaite stated changing unionized U.Okay. seafarers with workers employed by way of the corporate Worldwide Ferry Administration would lower P&O’s labour prices in half, in accordance with a letter obtained by information web site Mirror On-line.

The opposition Labour Get together demanded the Conservative authorities droop DP World’s contracts and licences and claw again the 4.3 million kilos ($5.6 million US) it gave the corporate in emergency funding through the pandemic.

Some crew members initially refused to depart their vessels after being advised Thursday that they have been being fired, and unions have been protesting Friday at ports.

A number of hundred union members rallied beside the well-known white cliffs in Dover, carrying banners that stated, “Save our seafarers” and “Save Britain’s ferries.” One other 200 protested within the northeast England port of Hull, strolling previous the berthed ferry Pleasure of Hull earlier than banging on the doorways of the ferry terminal constructing.

Mayor requires nationalization of ferry operations

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham stated the federal government ought to think about nationalizing P&O.

“I say to the prime minister: You need to step in, and you must ship in your dedication to strengthen employment legislation so this sort of gangster follow cannot be allowed to occur any extra,” Burnham advised a rally within the northwest port of Liverpool.

The top of the Nautilus Worldwide union, which represents some P&O crew, stated there have been security considerations about contract employees working the vessels within the English Channel, one of many world’s busiest transport routes.

Nautilus and one other union, RMT, stated they have been making ready authorized motion in opposition to the corporate.

“That is clearly unlawful,” Nautilus Common-Secretary Mark Dickinson stated. “It is a darkish day within the transport trade.”

P&O Ferries’ final proprietor is Dubai World, a holding firm that claims it’s dedicated to “producing worth” for its shareholder, the federal government of Dubai. The corporate’s chair is Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mentioned Al Maktoum, a member of the Dubai royal household.

Dubai World’s holdings embody the worldwide logistics firm DP World, which owns P&O Ferries. The corporate operates ports, transport terminals and different amenities that make use of greater than 71,000 individuals in 69 nations all over the world. In November, the corporate grew to become the title sponsor of the European skilled golf tour, which is now often known as the DP World Tour.

DP World on March 10 stated internet earnings rose 5.9 per cent, to $896 million US final yr. Income jumped 26 per cent, to $10.8 billion, after it acquired belongings within the U.S., India, South Korea, Ukraine, Angola and Canada.

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