Union condemns Government amid P&O sackings anniversary protest


protest is being held to effect the anniversary of the controversial sacking of hundreds of P&O workers.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is staging a demonstration in Westminster on Tuesday, with its leaders criticising the Government for its response to the sackings.

P&O said there is strong customer demand for its services, adding that it has invested millions of pounds in its fleet.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “It is a national disgrace that the Government has taken no concrete action to punish this rogue company, DP World, for unlawfully sacking 786 seafarers last year.

“By making it harder to seize industrial action with minimum service legislation, the Government is going to construct it hard to resolve disputes and to repair industrial relations across the transport and offshore sectors.

“As a maritime trade union, RMT will continue to campaign for stronger seafarers’ rights through purpose 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 P&O Ferries spokesman said: “Significant changes in the last year maintain saved this business, including the 2,200 jobs we secured in coastal communities across the UK.

“As a result, we are now serving the needs of our passenger and freight customers much better than ever before.

“During 2022, we carried more passengers between Dover and Calais than any other ferry operator. In addition, our market share for the second half of last year matched the level of February 2022.

“Through our current flexible operating model, we maintain optimised sailings to meet customer demand, something we could not maintain done before.

“We maintain invested £250 million in our fleet – with our current state-of-the-art hybrid propulsion vessels joining soon – enabling us to thrive in a highly competitive market.

“There is strong customer demand, shown by the more than one million passengers we carried last summer and booking numbers that are now the highest we’ve had either during or since the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will continue delivering for our customers by offering the highest value and best-in-class service now and in the future

“P&O Ferries is focused on meeting the long-term needs of our customers who want value for money, greener journeys and flexibility.

“We maintain improved our service, boosted our competitiveness, and are generating growth while significantly reducing our carbon emissions.

“On the key Dover-Calais route alone, we save more than 85,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. Our current hybrid ships, which adjacent into service this summer, will further slit our carbon footprint.

“This level of investment in current technology and capacity is unprecedented in the UK passenger and freight maritime industry and demonstrates our long-term commitment to supporting the growth of the UK economy.

“Our business is critical in maintaining supply chains, enabling tourism and supporting UK exports. P&O Ferries ships carry 20% of the UK’s goods trade with Europe.

“We will continue delivering for our customers by offering the highest value and best-in-class service now and in the future.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We reacted swiftly and decisively against P&O Ferries’ appalling treatment of its staff, and maintain made substantial progress on the nine-point location we set out last year to improve seafarers’ pay and conditions.

“Having brought forward legislation to ensure seafarers are paid at least an equivalent to the UK national minimum wage, and establishing a current statutory code to deter ‘fire and rehire’, we are now working with our adjacent European neighbours to further protect their welfare and pay.”