Ministers step up attack on ‘seditious’ P&O ferries after mass layoffs

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Ministers today stepped up attacks on P&O Ferries and warned government contracts could be scrapped after the mass layoff of 800 crew members.

Tory leader Oliver Dowden expressed “disgust” at the company’s “harsh practices” and said it had not shown any “empathy” towards workers.

He stressed that the government is checking whether the abrupt layoffs are legal and reviewing the contracts with the company.

Labor has urged the Government to make public the legal advice it has received on whether P&O Ferries broke the law in laying off staff on Thursday.

In a series of radio interviews from Blackpool, where the Tories are holding their spring conference, Mr Dowden said of P&O Ferries: “I think they should have no doubt that the Government is looking very closely at their relationship with them.”

He told Times Radio the government is trying to determine if the layoffs are legal.

“That is why the Secretary for Transport (Grant Shapps) has asked the Insolvency Service to look at things like reporting requirements and see if further action is appropriate,” Mr Dowden said.

“Frankly, we all resent P&O’s harsh practices.

“There was a lack of commitment, advance notice or even any empathy for the workers.”

Three P&O ferries, Spirit of Britain, Pride of Canterbury and Pride of Kent, moored at the cruise terminal at the Port of Dover in Kent ahead of the company’s announcement

In a round of interviews today, Oliver Dowden said the government is trying to determine whether the mass layoffs were legal

In a round of interviews today, Oliver Dowden said the government is trying to determine whether the mass layoffs were legal

Former P&O employees and RMT members block the road leading to the Port of Dover as P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed out immediate resignations to 800 seafarers, saying

Former P&O employees and RMT members block the road leading to the Port of Dover as P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed out immediate resignations to 800 seafarers, saying “our survival depends on making quick and meaningful changes.”

P&O Ferries Crisis: The Facts

What’s happening?

P&O Ferries has laid off 800 workers and replaced them with cheaper temporary workers.

Can it?

Unions have threatened legal action and lawyers have suggested workers could sue for wrongful dismissal. Tom Long, a partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said the move “appears to violate the requirements required for a normal mass layoff”.

Ferry booked?

P&O Ferries updated the instructions via Twitter every half hour yesterday. On some routes, including Dover to Calais, it advised customers to show up as usual and proceed to the DFDS ferry company’s check-in counters. On others, such as B. between Larne and Cairnryan, the company suggested that customers only travel where absolutely necessary.

Other options?

If you are traveling in the near future you can book with an alternative airline. DFDS and Irish Ferries operate routes between Dover and Calais. There are no direct alternatives for the other routes, but Stena Line offers connections to Ireland and Holland.

Refunds?

The company has not commented, but its terms and conditions say it will refund the “total price” of a crossing if “we are unable to carry you with us at all or can arrange a suitable alternative ferry crossing, or if you do not wish to take an alternative offered by us Trip”.

And P&O cruises?

P&O Cruises is owned by another company and is not affected by the disruption.

Protesters will gather at the Comedy Carpet near Blackpool Tower today as the Tories hold their Spring Forum near the Winter Gardens.

Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel are making speeches today.

The opposition asked if ministers could take legal action to reverse the decision to fire so many staff without consultation.

It also published an analysis of data showing P&O Ferries has won £38.3million in government contracts since December 2018.

Keir Starmer also called on the government to suspend its contracts with the ferry giant and its owners DP World until the situation is resolved.

Sir Keir said: “P&O’s actions are aggressive and immoral. The government’s apparent inaction is as indicative of its respect for work safety as it is damning.’

He added: “This Conservative government has responsibilities. Boris Johnson’s party has created an environment where big companies believe they have a license to drive recklessly through good employment practices, basic respect for workers and everyone’s right to fair treatment.

“If a company can absolve itself of responsibility for its workforce and the government doesn’t blink, there is room for others to do the same.

“We are demanding that the Prime Minister grant access to the legal advice the Department for Transport has received on whether P&O Ferries’ actions constitute a breach of the law and whether there are legal remedies to reverse the decision.

“Full transparency is essential to prevent anyone else from being subjected to this appalling behavior. Any government contracts they have should be suspended until this is resolved.’

Transport Minister Shapps and Economy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to P&O’s CEO yesterday to express their “disappointment and anger” at the mass layoffs.

Mr Shapps said he has instructed the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to carry out inspections of all P&O ships before they return to sea to check that the new crews the company has “rushed through” are safe .

Demonstrations took place in the ports of London, Liverpool, Larne, Hull and Dover on Friday as unions called for a boycott of the company.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We need to get to the bottom of this scandal.

“The government must be transparent and publish legal advice received. That’s the least the P&O crew deserves.

“If the company has broken the law, they face severe consequences – not just a slap in the face.

“What happened at P&O must never happen again.

“Ministers urgently need to introduce an employment law to prevent workers being treated like disposable workers. The time for excuses is over.”

P&O transports a third of freight between the UK and France.  Their ferries weren't running because of the dispute, which caused problems

P&O transports a third of freight between the UK and France. Their ferries weren’t running because of the dispute, which caused problems

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