Tories slammed for ‘crocodile tears’ over P&O workers after blocking law aimed at banning Fire and Rehire

Last year, the government blocked a new law to curb businesses' ability to fire and rehire.

P&O

Tory MPs and ministers are today being slammed for their hypocrisy and for ‘shedding crocodile tears’ over the 800 workers sacked by P&O, after it was pointed out that the government blocked a law last year that would’ve banned fire and rehire and curbed the very practices carried out by P&O.

P&O Ferries sacked 800 staff that work on its vessels with immediate effect, with plans to use cheap agency staff on its ships instead.

The leading UK ferry operator sacked its staff without notice or consultation. The move sparked outrage among workers, many of whom refused to leave the ships and security guards were seen placing handcuffs on them as they were told to remove workers.

The company has been condemned, including by the government. Robert Courts, parliamentary under-secretary for transport said: “Reports of workers being given zero notice and escorted off their ships… shows the insensitive way in which P&O have approached this issue.”

P&O plan to replace sacked workers with cheaper agency staff and are encouraging former staff to apply for agency work, in a practice known as ‘fire and rehire’, whereby sacked staff are rehired on worse terms and conditions.

Last year, the government blocked a new law to curb businesses’ ability to fire and rehire. The private members bill put forward by Labour MP Barry Gardiner also said employees should be ‘fully consulted on any fire-and-rehire plans’.

Yet Tory MPs who are today condemning P&O seem to have forgotten that they blocked a bill designed to stop this exact situation.

Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project tweeted: “In the Summer of last year

@BarryGardiner introduced a Private Members Bill that would have made it a criminal offence to do what P&O Ferries did yesterday. But a Government Minister ‘talked it out’ (i.e. killed it).”

In response to Grant Shapps claiming that he was concerned about the news from P&O ferries, one social media user wrote: “In October, you and your colleagues were on a three-line whip to oppose Barry Gardiner’s bill to ban “fire and rehire” as many European governments have already done. Reports this evening say you knew about P&O’s plans on Wednesday. How “concerned” are you?”

Another social media user wrote: “12 years committing to blatantly anti-foreigner policies and then uproar cos we can’t take refugees. 12 years suppressing trade union power & workers rights then uproar cos P&O sack 800 workers. Tories own these. Ignore their crocodile tears – they don’t give a s***.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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