PMQs: Starmer slams Johnson over P&O ‘fire and rehire’ scandal

Starmer said, " Whilst he sits on his hands, more and more workers are having their lives thrown upside down by this appalling practice."

Keir Starmer speaking at the dispatch box of the House of Commons on the sacking of P&O Ferries workers at PMQs

In a heated exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions today, the Labour leader Keir Starmer took prime minister Boris Johnson to task over the scandal of P&O Ferries sacking its UK staff and replacing them with workers paid as little as £1.80 an hour.

Starmer used all six of his questions to attack the Prime Minister’s response to the crisis and the Tories’ failure to ban practices like those engaged in by P&O, including ‘fire and rehire”. He also drew attention to the amount of public money that has been given to P&O and its Dubai based parent company DP World in government contracts.

Starmer said, “Since the Prime Minister came to office, P&O have received over £38 million of government contracts, and the parent company DP World is lined up for £50 million of taxpayers money under the freeport scheme. The government is apparently reviewing these contracts. But reviews don’t save jobs. Can the Prime Minister guarantee that these companies will not get a penny more of taxpayers money – or a single tax break – until they reinstate the workforce?”

Johnson responded by claiming the government will take legal action against the company. He said, “What the House has already heard is that we are taking legal action against the company concerned, under the 1992 Employment, Trade Union and Labour Relation Act.”

But Starmer mocked this response, arguing, “DP World must be quaking in their boots. The Prime Minister says how disappointed he is in them, whilst handing them £50 million.”

He went on to slam the Prime Minister for failing to outlaw fire and rehire. Tory MPs abstained on a motion on March 21 which sought to ban the practice.

Starmer said, “P&O’s behaviour comes off the back of a sting of fire and rehire cases – profitable companies threatening to fire workers unless they accept a pay cut. The Prime Minister keeps telling us just how opposed he is to fire and rehire. But as we saw on Monday, he doesn’t have the backbone to ban it. Whilst he sits on his hands, more and more workers are having their lives thrown upside down by this appalling practice.”

He continued, “On Monday, he ordered all of his lot to abstain on a vote to ban fire and rehire.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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