‘WE MUST send a clear message that rogue employers cannot get away with trampling over the laws of this country, it is time to throw the book at P&O and save this loyal workforce,’ Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary said yesterday in Parliament.
She was asking an urgent question about ‘the conduct of P&O Ferries, the chief executive of the board and the action that they will take to safeguard jobs.’
Tory minister Robert Courts, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport said: ‘This morning my Right Honourable friend the Transport Secretary wrote to the chief executive of P&O asking him to pause and reconsider and offer his workers’ their jobs back on their previous terms, conditions and wages, should they want them.
‘This is because we will return to this House to announce a package of measures that will ensue that the outcomes that P&O Ferries are seeking to achieve, with this disastrous move to pay less than the minimum wage cannot be seen through. As a result they will have no reason left not to reconsider this act.’
Haigh said: ‘I know the minister and the secretary of state feel the same way and I appreciate the contact that he has made with the opposition and the trade unions.
‘But now every tool must now be used to force P&O Ferries to reinstate workers on the previous terms and conditions.’
She said: ‘The Prime Minister said very clearly on Wednesday we are taking legal action against the company concerned, so has the secretary of state given his direction to prosecute? If not why not?’
She said: ‘Time is running out, the deadline set by P&O for this Thursday for workers to agree severance amounts to extortion and has no legal basis. What powers does the government therefore have to extend that unlawful deadline.’
‘Will the minister commit to working with the unions and all ferry companies to agree a binding frame work that would prevent a race to the bottom to the lowest international standards.’
Gavin Nelulands, Scottish National Party Spokesperson said: ‘I have to ask – where was his zealot progressive intent at protecting jobs in British Airways, threatening to fire and rehire 40,000 staff? If some action had been taken then we may not have been in this situation with P&O.
‘We are ready to work with the select committee and the unions with any constructive suggestions they make. And there has been very constructive suggestions from all sides of the house.’