Home   Dover   News   Article

P&O's Spirit of Britain resumes Dover to Calais freight crossing for first time since Zoom sackings


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

Six weeks after P&O caused outrage by sacking 800 staff over Zoom and replacing them with low paid agency staff it has resumed freight services.

The Spirit of Britain left the Port of Dover last night as P&O Ferries resumed Dover-Calais sailings for freight customers.

The Spirit of Britain departs from the Port of Dover, in Kent, as P&O Ferries resume Dover-Calais sailings for freight customers (Gareth Fuller/PA)
The Spirit of Britain departs from the Port of Dover, in Kent, as P&O Ferries resume Dover-Calais sailings for freight customers (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The vessel was detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on April 12 after safety issues were found, but was cleared to sail last Friday.

Passenger services are expected to resume early next week.

P&O has been carrying out test crossings this week.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has called for a public and commercial boycott of P&O Ferries.

The freight departure comes as P&O Ferries said on Tuesday night that a full investigation would be carried out after a vessel travelling between Cairnryan and Larne lost power off the Co Antrim coast.

Three P&O ferries moored at Dover just after the suspension of services in March. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Three P&O ferries moored at Dover just after the suspension of services in March. Picture: Barry Goodwin

The European Causeway, which can carry 410 passengers, was adrift five miles off the coast of Larne in the Irish Sea for more than an hour on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier, the Marine Traffic website stated the vessel’s automatic identification system status had been set to “not under command” which is reserved for use when a vessel is “unable to manoeuvre as required by these rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel”.

A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said it had been a temporary issue and the European Causeway had travelled to Larne “under its own propulsion”.

“There are no reported injuries on board and all the relevant authorities have been informed.

“Once in dock a full independent investigation will be undertaken.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps: "P&O must do three things to get out of this mess."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps: "P&O must do three things to get out of this mess."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning told the Transport Committee in Parliament that P&O Ferries had to lose chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite, pay the minimum wage and repay furlough money it was given.

He said: "There are three things that P&O needs to do to get out of this mess and I call on them today public to get on and do it.

"First of all it's completely unsustainable to have the head of P&O Peter Hebblethwaite who came to a committee room like this and openly explained how he sought to break the law. He said that was his intention and he would do it again. He will have to go.

"Secondly, in my view though it's a matter for P&O themselves, I think they need to repay the furlough money as well, it's around £11 million.

"I don;'t think it's right that having claimed that money they then sacked the workers in such a premeditated way, which they themselves admitted broke the law.

Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite speaking to MPs on Msrch 24.
Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite speaking to MPs on Msrch 24.

"Thirdly they will have to pay the minimum wage."

He said that in the Queen's Speech on May 10 legislation would be detailed that required this for ferry routes between Britain and places such as Holland and France.

Mr Shapps continued: "They have no choice they are going to have to pay the proper wage for the job.

"Until they do those three things they won't find their way back into the affections of the travelling public or probably those who use them for freight.

"It's only a matter of time, I think, before they do all three."

In May 2020 P&O Ferries had also announced 1,100 redundancies, having been able to furlough that number of workers two months before.

Channel House, the P&O Ferries HQ, Dover. Library picture: Sam Lennon KMG
Channel House, the P&O Ferries HQ, Dover. Library picture: Sam Lennon KMG

The Government help had been given because of the downturn in demand due to travel restrictions because of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns.

On March 24 this year Mr Hebbelthwaite admitted to MPs that the company had broken employment law by not consulting trade unions over the redundancies made on March 17.

The minimum wage in the UK for people aged 23 and above was then £8.91 per hour.

Mr Hebblethwaite, whose basic annual salary is £325,000, revealed that the average hourly pay of the replacement crews was only £5.50.

A P&O Ferries spokesman said today: "The actions our company took on March 17, whilst unpopular, saved 2,200 jobs and a British company.

" P&O Ferries is now a modern, dynamic, competitive and viable business which can meet customer needs flexibly in a way that has not been possible in the past.

“We call on Government to have a constructive dialogue with P&O Ferries about the future and how we get this country moving in a positive direction after two very difficult years for business. Calls for our CEO to go need to stop.

“Despite the attempts from some parties to undermine our business by creating false rumours and uninformed commentary, our morale is high and our spirit as a company is strong.

"P&O Ferries is welcoming passengers and freight customers on board its services and we will be back to full service shortly.

"We will also return to commercial viability soon which is vital for our future as a business and also for the sake of the thousands of people we employ.”

The company also says it welcomes the Government’s commitment to increasing the minimum wage for all seafarers working in British waters

It says its announcement had not been about reducing seafarer’s wage but to enable it to have a fully flexible crewing model to meet the demands of our customers.

P&O says the predicted savings it announced was not solely from the reduction in wages but from removing job duplication and the benefits from increased flexibility.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More