OVER 500 trade unionists gathered outside the RMT headquarters on the waterfront in Dover, yesterday with red RMT flags and union banners after 800 P&O seafarers were instantly sacked and driven off their ships on Thursday.
John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington said: ‘100 per cent solidarity with this struggle. There has been a meeting with Labour leader Starmer.’
McDonnell continued: ‘Starmer must discuss with legal officers what laws can be used to restore the jobs.’ He demanded: ‘If not emergency laws must be passed on Monday.’
He urged: ‘If there is no legislation on Monday the ships should be seized on Tuesday.’
Mick Lynch General Secretary of the RMT told the rally: ‘There has been support from the world.’
With reference to P&O and their Dubai owners DP World he said: ‘What we have got here are oligarchs.
‘The government should seize these people’s assets.’
Worker’s in the rally shouted back ‘Seize the ships! Seize the ships!’
In fact three P&O ships are lying in Dover docks with the gates barred.
Lynch said: ‘The government knew about the attack on workers on Wednesday night.
‘Did the Minister Rob Courts (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport) lift a finger?
‘He must be collaborating with what is going on.
‘Get Rob Courts to come to the dispatch box to get our people back into the ships.
‘If he doesn’t he should be pushed out of Parliament himself.
‘What I want you to take away from today is that this is the beginning of a fight. Our members work on the ships for extended periods so the ships are like their homes. They have been evicted from their homes, their job and their ability to support their families.
‘They are destroying the sea communities and the port communities.
‘We must rebuild the values of people’s socialism.
‘We should have the right to secondary action here and all over the world.’
The rally moved off and marched down to the White Cliffs of Dover and there was a further rally.
A MASSIVE backlash against P&O Ferries is growing after the firm sacked 800 staff without giving them any notice.
The Tory government said it would review its contracts with P&O Ferries after it fired its employees, planning to replace them with cheaper agency staff.
Unions hit out against the dismissal, saying it marked a ‘dark day’ in the shipping industry.
P&O said it was a ‘tough’ decision but it would ‘not be a viable business’ without the changes.
A chorus of cross-party MPs, however, described P&O Ferries’ actions as ‘callous’ and ‘disgraceful’.
Nearly a quarter of P&O Ferries’ staff were told via a video message on Thursday that it was their ‘final day of employment’.
The RMT union said it was one of the ‘most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations’.
P&O Ferries worker Andrew Smith said he felt ‘utter dismay’ after working for the company for 22 years.
‘It’s our lives,’ he said. It’s how our families have grown up, knowing that this is what we do, and it’s just been turned on its head within a matter of hours.’
Sacked P&O employee Andrew Smith said he felt ‘utter dismay’ at losing his job after 22 years
Mark Dickinson, general secretary of the maritime trade union Nautilus said: ‘It’s absolutely ripped the guts out of everybody.’
Having worked in the sector for 40 years, he added: ‘It is a dark day in the shipping industry.
‘I’ve seen some curveballs and some shocking developments over that time… but for a company to treat the legal process in such an underhand and callous way has shocked me.’
In addition to taking part in demonstrations yesterday, both the RMT union and Nautilus are seeking legal advice on the dismissal.
The transport union TSSA called on the government to ‘take over running vital ferry routes to safeguard trade and travel’, and ‘hit (P&O) where it hurts’ over the ‘shocking events’.
Beth Hale, partner at employment law firm CM Murray, said P&O Ferries may well have breached employment law. P&O Ferries claimed almost £15 million in government grants in 2020, which included furlough payments for its employees.
P&O was bought by DP World, the multi-national ports and logistics company based in Dubai in 2019. At the time of purchase, its chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem described it as a ‘strong, recognisable brand’.
It paid a £270 million dividend to shareholders in 2020.
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