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P&O Ferries staff told: 'You are all redundant'

A woman has shared her disgust at the "highly immoral" and "insulting" way P&O Ferries bosses announced 800 staff would be made redundant.

The firm cancelled all services this morning leaving passengers stranded at Dover and Calais.

Staff were told at 11am and according to an anonymous source were given "five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ship".

A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said: “P&O Ferries plays a critical role in keeping trade flowing, supply chains moving, and connecting families and friends across the North and Irish seas and the English Channel. We have been at the heart of this service for years and we are committed to serving these vital routes.

"However, in its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100m loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.

"These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options. As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.

"In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK. And we are ensuring that we can continue serving our customers in a way that they have demanded from us for many years.”

KentOnline understands security teams were on-hand as staff left their posts – with replacement teams waiting them on the dockside.

One source said "16 handcuff-trained security people" were involved.

The company employs around 4,000 staff nationwide.

One woman, who does not want to be named, has a husband and son who lost their jobs on Dover ferries overnight. She said: "When P&O suspended sailings this morning crews were waiting on the ships with no idea what was happening – even the captains didn't know.

"Then pictures emerged of three coach loads of foreign workers waiting at ports to take their jobs. They were already wearing P&O uniforms - yet the staff still hadn't been told they were being let go.

"They were told they had five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ships. These guys are week on week off workers who have called these ships home for half of the year every year. They have personal effects in lockers which they can't get to - clothes, bedding, photographs and in some cases financial documents which will be taken out and thrown.

"My son is an apprentice. With 350 people competing for jobs at sea, they're unlikely to be able to find a ferry company to take them on to finish their apprenticeships. Their coursework is on the ships waiting to be thrown out. It's highly immoral and another insult from P&O to East Kent. "

All its cross-Channel services were cancelled this morning at short notice with travellers being diverted to alternative operators.

The company had told staff to expect "serious disruption" at all of its ports today because of the suspension of services.

P&O is owned by DP World, a Dubai-based logistics giant.

It bought the ferry company for £322m in 2019.

In addition to its cross-Channel routes, it also operates services between Hull and Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin and Cairnryan to Larne (Scotland to Northern Ireland). All of its routes were suspended ahead of the announcement.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has called on DP World to rethink its behaviour and this decision.

She also warned that DP World’s mishandling and mistreatment of their employees threatened to cause chaos on Kent roads and harm to the UK economy as a whole.

“This is devastating news for the P&O workers who are affected on the Dover route - as well as their families," she said.

“It’s a huge blow to the whole Dover district, because there’s an awful lot of people that are employed by P&O in our area, it's a mega blow to the town."

"This is shabby corporate behaviour by Dubai’s DP World and an insult to the decades of loyalty and hard work by Dover’s workforce.

“Today’s announcement is also a u-turn on assurances given to me and the RMT Union over the last two years.

"DP World should rethink their behaviour and reverse this decision."

Responding to reports that the ferries could be stuck in port for days, Ms Elphicke added: “Not only is this disgraceful and irresponsible corporate behaviour by DP World, their appalling mishandling and mistreatment of their workers now threatens to cause chaos on Kent roads and wider harm to the UK economy as a whole - DP World should be held to account for any disruption.”

Dover council leader Trevor Bartlett said: “It’s a huge blow to the whole Dover district, because there’s an awful lot of people that are employed by P&O in our area, it's a mega blow to the town.

"They say they haven't gone into liquidation and workers can re-apply with agencies. But I don't ever think that's a good move.

“I understand that if a company isn’t doing well then something needs to happen and it can’t keep making a huge loss all the time.

“Obviously the pandemic hasn’t helped at all so it has been tough for everyone. But to lose a job and then say you can re-apply as agency staff, well that isn’t the same is it."

Asked what action the council could take he said "it wasn't the council's decision" but he would call Dover MP Natalie Elphicke.

He said: "I see Grant Shapps is in meetings with P&O directors and was waiting for the outcome from that.

Disruption is expected at Dover as a result of the suspension of services
Disruption is expected at Dover as a result of the suspension of services

"I haven't yet picked up the phone to Natalie but I definitely will be and see what we can do from there."

Responding to reports about the future of P&O and speculation that hundreds of UK seafarers employed by the company could be replaced by foreign labour RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “We are deeply disturbed by growing speculation that the company are today planning to sack hundreds of UK seafarers and replace them with foreign labour.

"We have instructed our members to remain onboard and are demanding our members across P&O’s UK operations are protected and that the Secretary of State intervenes to save UK seafarers from the dole queue.”

A Dover District Council spokesman said: "We are deeply concerned about today’s news from P&O Ferries and its impact on the company’s employees and the wider community.

"Ferry services from Dover have long sustained local jobs and are vital to both the local and national economy. As well as its sea-going staff, P&O Ferries has its HQ in Dover.

"We were not consulted in advance of today’s announcement but would welcome the opportunity to meet with P&O Ferries management.

"We will be working with the Department for Work & Pensions and other local agencies to see what support can be offered to employees affected by today's announcement."

P&O Ferries is a separate company to P&O Cruises which is operated by Carnival UK. It split from the ferries part of the business in 2000 and is unaffected by today's announcement.

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