Sunak sparks union anger over treatment of P&O . owners

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday sparked anger from unions after he signaled that ministers would allow the owner of Dubai-based P&O Ferries to continue investing in the autonomous transport sector. due in the UK even after laying off hundreds of staff.

Speaking on BBC radio Sunday morningSunak described P&O Ferries’ decision to fire 800 UK-based workers without notice as “appalling” and “terrible”, adding that the government was examining whether the actions company’s compliance with the law or not.

However, when asked about whether the government would prevent the Dubai-based and state-controlled shipping and logistics company, DP World owning and operating freelance shipping companies in the UK. no, Sunak suggested that this be handled separately according to the P&O controversy.

“I think there are two different things,” he said. “The P&O ferry situation is something we are actively looking at and as I said, we are reviewing all government contracts with P&O to determine what the right next steps are.”

DP World poured £2 billion into the UK economy, with a further £1.5 billion earmarked for “additional investment”.

The company operates the UK’s second and third largest piers, at Southampton and the London Gateway.

Both ports are part of special economic zones that have been awarded free status by Sunak. Freelance transport companies are still being set up and have not yet received funding from the government.

“We are urgently working to verify the facts of what happened in this case and whether P&O or DP World violated any of their requirements as partners in Thames and Solent. Freeports or not,” the government said.

Mark Dickinson, general secretary of the Nautilus union, said he was “deeply disappointed to learn of this spineless government’s refusal to terminate all business with DP World”.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said both P&O and DP World “must be set an example”.

“Any prospect of DP World ports being granted ‘free status’ by the government must be stopped. And ministers should discuss with trade unions to review existing contracts with DP World and P&O Ferries,” she said.

Last weekend, Sunday Times reported that a memo regarding the layoffs was written by Whitehall officials and circulated across several government agencies ahead of the company’s mass layoff announcement on Thursday.

According to the newspaper, the memo noted that P&O Ferries had intended “to try and re-use more staff under new terms and conditions, or to use agency staff to restart routes.” However, the move was justified on the grounds that it would ensure that the company remained “a key player in the UK market for many years to come through restructuring”.

P&O management was unable to say when its core services would resume.

The associations said services between Liverpool and Dublin restarted on Saturday using Dutch-registered ships, but other routes, including the vital Dover-Calais artery, remained suspended.

A former worker in a supervisory role said he understood that P&O planned to restart the Dover-Calais service on Thursday, when agency employees will carry out exercises led by the Maritime Authority. and Coast Guard assessment.

However, Dickinson said it is unlikely that P&O will restart service anytime soon as the operator “leads agent staff”, after several people walked away following the controversy.

Unions and laid-off employees have also raised concerns about the safety of P&O ships due to the use of inexperienced workers.

A document reviewed by the Financial Times shows that in July 2021, three safety incidents were reported in one day involving agent staff from Clyde Marine Recruitment, one of the agencies used by P&O to replace laid off workers. MCA and Clyde Marine Recruitment did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The RMT alliance said it expected the P&O to hire staff from India, Indonesia and the Philippines and pay below minimum wage. RMT general secretary Mike Lynch said employees will be offered as little as $3.47 per hour.

P&O and DP World did not respond to requests for comment but had previously said the restructuring was necessary to stay in business.

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