P&O Ferries today made all of its crew members immediately redundant and replaced them with agency workers – but unions have asked workers to refuse to leave their ships and stage sit-ins in huge queues for pay.
Agency workers are already waiting at the dockside to prepare for the ferry ride, but are facing a battle to persuade its existing staff to get off because of widespread outrage at P&O’s ‘treacherous’ decision.
Labor MP Carl Turner tweeted a picture of company workers waiting to board the Pride of Hull ferry at King George Dock in the city.
“The new foreign crew is waiting for the board … RMT is on board – they won’t board it,” he wrote, adding: “We understand that both the current officer and the rating will be fired.”
P&O Ferry – which said existing crews could apply to the agency for work – dramatically ordered all of its ships back to port before the announcement and kicked frustrated passengers with little caution.
It said customers with existing bookings should still be seen and their alternative transport would be provided.
Transport Secretary Grant Shaps told the House of Commons that he was “concerned” about the situation and had contacted the P&O for urgent discussions.
It comes as DUP MP Jim Shannon claims in the Commons that about half of the P&O ferries are owned by Russian businesses. “I understand that 40% of P&O Ferry’s holdings are in the hands of a Russian company,” he said.
The RMT said: “We have instructed our members to remain onboard and our members are demanding that the UK activities of P&O be protected and that the Secretary of State intervene to protect UK sailors from the Dole Queue.”
P&O Ferry, which carries passengers and goods, is owned by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World.
It operates four routes: Dover to Calais; Hull to Rotterdam; From Liverpool to Dublin; And Cairnryan, from Scotland to Larne, Northern Ireland.
The journey between Hull and Zibrug in Belgium was intercepted in January 2021.
The firm carried 10 million passengers a year before the epidemic and accounted for about 15% of all freight products in the UK and beyond.
But like many transportation companies, it saw a dramatic slowdown in demand in 2020, forcing it to announce 1,110 job cuts. This follows the failure to secure a £ 150m bailout from the government.
Today, a Calais driver says he has been waiting for the ferry since 6am, due to return to the UK.
“More than anything, I’m disappointed that no one from P&O was there to help and advise … I haven’t received so little from anyone.”
The driver, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was able to re-book with DFDS, adding: If not. Of them. ‘
He added: “At least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shaps told the Commons: ‘I understand that they have temporarily suspended their operations, and this has led to disruptions in the smaller Straits – Calais-Dover – as well as some other ports.
‘I am working with the Kent Resilience Forum and I have instructed them and other partners to get involved in this complex matter, and we will take action later today – to make sure our officials have an urgent discussion with the P&O about the situation, especially their staff. It is a matter of concern.
Earlier in the day, the ferry operator said it was on top of “making a big announcement today” that would “secure the long-term viability of the P&O ferry”.
The statement added: “In order to facilitate this announcement, all our ships have been asked to unload their passengers and cargo and stay by their side for further instructions.”
“This means we expect all our ports to be severely disrupted today.”
Following the coronavirus outbreak, P&O ferries warned in May 2020 that about 1,100 workers could lose their jobs as part of a plan to “love and sustain” the business.
A company spokesman said: ‘P&O ferries are not going into liquidation.
‘In preparation for the company announcement, we have asked all ships to come along.
“Until then, P&O services will not be available and we are advising passengers on alternative arrangements.”
The company that will be P&O was founded in 1837 after signing an official agreement between London and the Iberian Peninsula for postal transport by boat.