OUTSIDE Parliament yesterday a two hundred-strong rally of P&O workers and their supporters shouted: ‘Seize our ships!’ and ‘P&O we say no!’
The rally was addressed by trade union leaders including the head of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Frances O’Grady.
She said: ‘We will not let them get away with it, no way. This started forty years ago under Thatcher’s Tory government. It is a battle for the whole country.’
She called for the repeal of the anti-union legislation and ended by saying: ‘Let’s have sanctions on P&O’.
During the protest David Nelson, Hull Shipping Branch RMT, told News Line: ‘All the people in Hull gave us huge support, and the support on social media is fantastic. It was inspirational to see the response. The government should look for a different company to take it over, and if nationalisation is the only way then that’s what they should do.’
Roy Osarogiagbon, from Jubilee South branch on London Underground, said: ‘We are RMT and we are united. In this we have strength. I’m here in solidarity with the 800 workers who were sacked by P&O. We can’t allow this to happen in 2022, with rising costs of living including a huge rise in energy.
‘We are going to fight for them to be reinstated and also compensated. And we’re calling for nationalisation. P&O are not broke. The government gave them freeports and paid them to furlough their workers. The TUC should ensure that this takes place, and fight the whole system.’
Shapps drops a bombshell–Tories were forewarned of P&O sackings
GRANT Shapps, Tory Transport Secretary yesterday dropped a bombshell in the House of Commons when he admitted in the debate on the sacking of 800 P&O workers that the Tories were given advance warning of the plan.
At the start of the debate, the Labour front bench was notable by its absence.
‘I am sure that the whole House agrees with me that the sacking of 800 P&O workers was nothing short of a national scandal,’ Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary told Parliament moving the Labour motion calling for the reinstatement of the workers to get ‘fire and rehire’ outlawed.
Haigh continued: ‘This cannot and will not stand.’
She said: ‘This must be a line in the sand. If ministers mean what they say they would bring forward an emergency employment bill tomorrow, they would outlaw fire and rehire without delay and strengthen workers’ employment rights.
‘And they would demand that these loyal P&O workers are reinstated.
‘The minister must start legal action against P&O for flagrant abuse of employment law.’
Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, intervened: ‘Isn’t it the case that if they can get away with it then this will just be the first domino.
‘Isn’t it then the case that it is not enough to just show solidarity with the P&O workers but to demand justice for the P&O workers and get this decision overturned.’
Haigh concluded: ‘No more excuses tonight. The Conservatives must back Labour’s motion and send a clear message that no workforce can ever be attacked again in this way.’
Tory Transport Secretary Shapps then indicated that it was not the sackings that he was opposed to, only the way they were carried out, and, indeed, that he had been forewarned.
He said: ‘We understand that regretfully sometimes redundancies are inescapable, but there is no excuse for what we saw occur last Thursday. No consultation with the workforce, no consultation with the unions.
‘The first I heard about it was at 8.30pm in the evening, indicating that P&O would be making redundancies the next day. The House will be aware or not be aware that both in 2020 and in 2021 redundancies took place at P&O larger then we saw last Thursday.
‘However they properly consulted about those redundancies and they were made voluntarily. So it was on that understanding that I assumed that the redundancies would take place in the same way.’
Emma Hardy, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hill West and Hessle, intervened: ‘So he was made aware that P&O workers were to be sacked, and he made the assumption that they would be made redundant in the correct manner without actually checking whether or not it would be done according to trade union and employment legislation.’
Andrew Gwynne then said: ‘It seems to me what he is saying is that it is absolutely unacceptable, indeed it is “outrageous” that the Pride of Britain (P&O Ferry) will be staffed by a non-British workforce on the basis that they (the previous crew) have been sacked in an inappropriate manner.
‘But were the Pride of Britain to be staffed by a non-British workforce and they had been sacked by the appropriate channels that would be ok! That is not taking back control it is weak!’
The motion was due to be voted on last night.
Dave Wiltshire, Secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance (ATUA), said: ‘The fact that the Tories were given advance notice of the mass sackings shows that there is only one way out of this crisis for the working class.
‘The TUC must immediately call a general strike to demand the nationalisation of P&O, and that all workers must be returned to their jobs and that this traitorous Tory government must be made to resign’.