‘RMT will continue to campaign for stronger seafarers’ rights.’
March 17 will mark the one-year anniversary of the unlawful sacking of almost 800 P&O Ferries’ employees. The seafarers were fired suddenly via Zoom video, with no union consultation or notice. The company’s owner, Dubai-based DP World, replaced the workers with cheaper, predominantly overseas labour.
The sackings sparked widespread outrage and protest. The chief executive of P&O Ferries had admitted that the company had broken the law by dismissing hundreds of workers without notice or consultation.
At a protest in Westminster yesterday ahead of the anniversary of the controversy, Mick Lynch addressed the crowd and said the government inaction on the sackings is a ‘national disgrace.’
“Everyone was outraged but nothing has come up to punish P&O or to protect our people,” said the RMT general secretary, adding:
“It is a national disgrace that the government has taken no concrete action to punish this rogue company DP World.”
Referring to the anti-strike legislation that Rishi Sunak has introduced to Parliament, which could result in workers being sacked for refusing to cross their own picket lines, Lynch said that by making it more difficult to take industrial action with minimum service legislation, the government is also going to “make it harder to resolve disputes and to repair industrial relations across the transport and offshore sectors.”
He said: “RMT will continue to campaign for stronger seafarers’ rights through fair pay agreements, revoking P&O Ferries’ royal charter, banning DP World from freeport tax reliefs, ending discrimination at sea and the scrapping of anti-trade union laws.”
A number of Labour MPs also attended the protest, including Richard Burgon, Kim Johnson, Ian Lavery, Beth Winter, and Louise Haigh.
Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, told protesters that bosses “knew they would get away with it, and the government has let them get away with it.”
A government spokesperson claimed ministers reacted “swiftly and decisively” to the dismissals.
A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said: “Our business is critical in maintaining supply chains, enabling tourism and supporting UK exports.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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