P&O SACKS 800! – RMT instructs crews to stay on board and refuse to leave

RMT seafarers on a TUC demonstration against cuts – action is needed to fight 800 sackings at P&O

P&O FERRIES has fired 800 seafaring staff with immediate effect. However, crews defied orders and refused to leave their ships, as their union the RMT launched an all-out battle for jobs.

Workers had been told the news on zoom. RMT said crew members were being replaced with cheaper foreign non-unionised labour.

Private security officers were sent on to one ship docked at Larne Harbour in Northern Ireland, to remove staff on board.

The union said it has instructed members to stay on board their vessels once they have docked or risk being ‘locked out’ of their jobs.

‘We are digging in for the long-haul. We are determined to fight,’ RMT spokesperson Geoff Martin said.

In an statement to Parliament yesterday Robert Courts, Tory Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport said: ‘Let me just say straight off the cuff that the way that these workers were informed was completely unacceptable. In taking this decision to lay off the workforce they have also announced that they will be suspending services for the next ten days while they locate crew.’

He added: ‘These are hard working dedicated staff who have given years of service to P&O.

‘Reports of workers given zero notice and escorted off their ship with immediate effect, while being told cheaper alternatives would take up their roles, shows the insensitive way in which P&O have approached this issue.

‘As I told the management and I am extremely concerned, and in fact, frankly angry by the way that workers have been treated today.’

He then said that workers would be ‘signposted’ to the jobcentre to get support.

‘I intend to call the trade unions immediately after this statement to discuss the situation with them.’

Louise Haigh, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport said: ‘The action taken by P&O ferries today is a national scandal. It is a betrayal of the workers.

‘There are images circulating of handcuff-trained security, some of them wearing balaclavas marching British crew off their ships.

‘This is beneath contempt – the action of thugs.

‘It is quite honestly a scandal that this Dubai-owned company which received millions of pounds of taxpayers money in the pandemic without consultation and without notice. 800 British workers sacked, while the profits of their owners DP World soared by 52% in the first half of 2021.’

She added: ‘The government must act now to secure the livelihoods of these workers, not signpost them to the Department of Work and Pensions.

‘Given that neither the workers or their unions received notification this action,’ she alleged, ‘is clearly illegal.’

She said: ‘This government have failed to take action, to outlaw fire and rehire. It is time for ministers to outlaw fire and rehire without delay. This is a straightforward assault on British seafarers.’

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘They have sacked hundreds of UK seafarers and replaced them with foreign labour.

‘We have instructed our members to remain on board and are demanding our members across P&O’s UK operations are protected and that the Secretary of State intervenes to save UK seafarers from the dole queue.’

In Dover some of the P&O crew workers blocked the roads. RMT national secretary Darren Procter, speaking from Dover, said: ‘Some of the crews have remained on the vessel. Security forces have gone on board and are trying to get the new crew on board. Obviously they do not want to do that until they have resolved the issues on board.

‘This is a company that does not want to negotiate there has been no dialogue with them whatsoever.’

Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus International said: ‘The P&O crews are being replaced with non-unionised agency workers.

‘These agency workers – where are they coming from? There is some information circulating that overseas agencies have been working behind the scenes recruiting. This is a plan that has been a long time developed.’