|Volume 52 Number 6, March 26, 2022||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
P&O Ferries has made 786 seafaring staff redundant, but reportedly with some crews initially defying orders and refusing to leave their cabins. The workers were told in a three-minute video message on March 17 that they were losing their jobs "with immediate effect". The company are intending to boost profits by sacking workers and replacing them with substitute labour on far worse pay and conditions. There are also concerns about a pension scheme for 20,000 present and former British seafarers. It has emerged that P&O Ferries owes the Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund about £140 million. P&O shoulders about 30% of the fund's liabilities, but had deferred contributions claiming that its finances were fragile.
The workers and their union have concluded that it is an issue of control of the company and decision-making that is highlighted. Workers intend to put the full weight of their organisation behind their claim on the operation and restrict the monopoly right to decide and fight for their own rights.
RMT said crewmembers were being "replaced with foreign labour". Private security officers were sent onto ships to remove staff on board.
P&O have attempted to use surprise and lightning strike activities as it says its interests dependent on "making swift and significant changes now". It appears that the government were forewarned about this action, and did nothing, despite all the feigned outrage in the House of Commons, which cost them nothing. Indeed, the brutal sackings came a day after the visit of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Dubai, UAE. P&O Ferries is owned by DP World, a company owned by the ruling family in Dubai. And last year the government blocked a bill that would have outlawed the "fire and rehire" methods used by P&O. Nevertheless, DP World has exercised dictatorial powers with British government complicity whatever the legality of its actions.
The company has been bleating about its profits, which it says determines the viability of the company as a business. They say that profits, pre-pandemic, have turned to losses. They say, "In its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100m loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries." However, as The Times reported, "the shipping giant DP World, is awash with cash: last month it announced record revenue, up 15% to $3.8bn". Indeed, DP World boasts on its website about its "record results" and "strong financial results".
Sailings have been cancelled and passengers told to shop elsewhere and use other companies. Services scheduled include 14 between Dover and Calais, three between Liverpool and Dublin and seven between Larne in County Antrim and Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway. All of these are affected by the terms of the EU withdrawal agreement.
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. Workers have refused to disembark and are instead, "in their cabins refusing to work".
The workers and their union have responded to this sudden attack on their livelihoods by embarking on a fight for their rights.
Stand As One with the P&O Seafarers! No to the Exercise of Dictatorial Powers!