Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 52 Number 7, April 2, 2022 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

P&O Mass Sackings

Protests Grow at British Ports

Demonstration against the dismissal of workers organised by the RMT

Protesters gathered in Liverpool, Dover and Hull on Saturday, March 26, as the RMT urged a stop to what it called the "P&O jobs massacre". The demonstrations came after a ship operated by the ferry firm was detained for being "unfit to sail" on Friday. The European Causeway vessel has been held at the port of Larne in Northern Ireland due to "failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training", the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.

Demonstrators chanted "P&O, shame on you" as they marched along a street in Liverpool, with more than 100 turning out, according to the RMT. The union added it welcomed the detention of the European Causeway and it demanded the government "seize the entire fleet" of P&O vessels. The RMT promised "more protests, more campaigning and more political pressure".

In Dover there were similar scenes as crowds carried banners and placards calling for an end to the "P&O jobs carve up".

Protesters marching in solidarity with P&O workers in Hull blockaded the entrance to King George Dock. Marching behind a group of motorcycle outriders, the demonstration marched down Hedon Road stopping traffic and shouting slogans. Once back at the dock entrance, a human blockade stopped access onto King George Dock to delay loading the ferry, Pride of Rotterdam.

RMT Union general secretary Mick Lynch said: "All the protests today were well attended with hundreds turning out in Liverpool, Hull and Dover to support the P&O workers in their fight for justice. There will be more protests, more campaigning and more political pressure this week as we ratchet up the fight and harness the public anger at the jobs massacre on our ferries."

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) tweeted a video showing P&O dockers in Rotterdam refusing to load freight onto a ferry set for Hull "in solidarity with the 800 seafarers illegally sacked by P&O".

Irish trade union workers gathered at Dublin Port outside the P&O terminal to send support from across the Irish Sea to P&O staff. The rally, organised by trade union Siptu, was attended by the new Irish Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik, and organiser Jim McVeigh told PA news agency that the rally was intended to "send solidarity". He added: "The best thing we could do was to have a rally at Dublin Port outside P&O so they know our concerns."

Hull blockade at King George Dock. Photo: John Westmoreland

The RMT has called for a boycott of all P&O services. RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said:"From the outset the full obnoxiousness and hostility of the company towards their staff and the RMT was on display. P&O were not prepared to listen to any scenario or develop any idea that would provide a means to create a solution to the current disastrous situation." Mick Lynch added: "RMT will continue to press the government for an immediate intervention by whatever means necessary to make P&O perform a U-turn and get our members reinstated. [...] We also call on the entire labour movement, the public, the freight & logistics sector and the political community to support an immediate and total boycott of all P&O services. The people of the UK need to pull P&O to account and make sure that the law in the workplace is upheld, that British workers can have job security and decent pay, and that P&O workers get workplace justice."

P&O Ferries has rejected the Transport Secretary's demand that it reinstate the 786 seafarers sacked without notice. P&O CEO Peter Hebblethwaite has come under concerted political pressure to resign following his handling of the sackings and his assertion that the company knowingly broke the law when it laid off the staff without properly consulting unions. In the meantime, ferries belonging to P&O have been detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency following inspections on crew familiarisation and training in ports in Dover and Larne.

The RMT responded to a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps from P&O CEO Peter Hebblethwaite on his justifications for not being able to rehire the nearly 800 sacked workers. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "The latest letter from Peter Hebblethwaite is a direct challenge to the legal framework and government authority in Britain. The diabolical arrogance that is on display by P&O Ferries is equivalent to highway banditry and must be opposed. This whole rotten fiasco shows why the government must step in, take over the running of P&O, and reinstate all 800 sacked staff with no loss of pay."

(The Independent, Union News, Financial Times, Counterfire, RMT)


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