Published: 13:52, 29 March 2022
| Updated: 15:18, 29 March 2022
Being a seafarer is not just a job, it's a way of life and a second family, says a sacked P&O worker.
Lee Davison was told he had lost his job by the now-infamous notorious Zoom call as he was approaching his 30th anniversary with the company.
Former P&O worker Lee Davison calls for greater protection of maritime workers
That news for him and his colleagues came through at 11am on Thursday, March 17.
Mr Davison, also branch secretary for Dover shipping with the RMT trade union, told KentOnline: "We had first had an email from the company earlier that morning that the ships would be suspended that day.
"Then pictures were circulated of agency staff boarding buses at Ashford and we knew something was up.
"There was no clue as to what might happen the day before – it was a total bolt out of the blue. We were due to meet the company the day after to discuss about how they were going to bring newly-built vessels back from China."
The company signed a £229 million contract in 2019 with Chinese-based Guangzhou Shipyard International Ltd to build giant new ferries.
Mr Davison, from Dover, was a second generation seafarer who had until this month been a deck petty officer on the Pride of Kent. He went into the merchant navy in August 1992 after leaving school aged 16.
He said: "It's not just a job, it's a way of life. We spend half our time with the guys on board the ship so it's like having a second family and your cabin on board's your second home.
"This is now having a detrimental impact on people's mental health and their relationships with their families.
"I've had grown men ringing me up in tears saying they don't know how they're going to pay their mortgages and they've got young children to support. It's going to have a devastating effect not just on the guys who lost their jobs but also for Dover.
"What have these people done wrong? It's not those on £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000 a year that have caused the problem, it's bad management.
"We want our members reinstated."
Mr Davison, 46, is married with two young children and has a mortgage.
He has spoken out because he has not yet signed the company's non-disclosure agreement but does not know where he stands in terms of redundancy pay-off.
He said: "I'm in a no-man's land but all I'm doing is telling the truth.
"Some of our members would like to go back but some are questioning whether they really want to work for this company any more."
It is understood that, as of yesterday, 430 workers had fully accepted their redundancy offers, while almost 70 members of staff, mainly senior crew members and captains, had signed new contracts.