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P&O Ferries to furlough more staff and is laying up ferries on Dover to Calais route

P&O Ferries has furloughed an extra 300 staff across its business but the latest number of employees affected at Dover has not yet been revealed.

Last month the cross-channel operator stood down 1,100 staff across its three routes and today it has announced extra steps while it mitigates the effect Covid-19 is having on its business.

Ferry crossings will significantly decrease from Dover Eastern Docks as P&O lays up four vessels furloughing an extra 300 staff
Ferry crossings will significantly decrease from Dover Eastern Docks as P&O lays up four vessels furloughing an extra 300 staff

The firm is to lay up four ships on the Dover to Calais run.

These are the Seaway, Burgundy and Canterbury which have already been laid up. The Pride of Kent will be laid up shortly.

This leaves Dover's largest vessels to maintain the freight sailings to and from the port - the Spirit of France and the Spirit of Britain.

KentOnline has asked whether any of the staff on these laid up ships will be transferred to other vessels.

A statement from P&O Ferries says its ships bring in about 15% of all the goods that the country uses, including large volumes of food and medical supplies.

The Spirit of France is one of only two of P&O ships to operate from Dover during the Covid-19 crisis
The Spirit of France is one of only two of P&O ships to operate from Dover during the Covid-19 crisis

The effect of the international travel ban has caused its passenger figures to collapse. The money from these supplement its freight sailings which have continued on a reduced scale.

The company is seeking around £250 million in funding from four methods: the UK government, its parent company DP World, the trade unions and by a restructure of the business - inevitably leading to job losses and changes to contracts.

Janette Bell, Chief Executive Officer of P&O Ferries, said: “Given the current crisis, we are having to make some tough decisions to keep the business strong.

“In March, we suspended our passenger business and furloughed 1,100 employees, to focus on maintaining the flow of freight to and from Britain.

“Like other operators, we have been waiting for the UK government’s advice on what support they can give the industry, as well as what conditions they might want to apply on things like routes and supply lines.

Janette Bell, chief executive at P&O Ferries
Janette Bell, chief executive at P&O Ferries

“However, we’ve had nothing so far and we can’t wait, as the pressure on the business continues, so we have to act.

“Today we are announcing further changes to reshape our business to survive this crisis and be ready to thrive in the future.

“These changes include the laying up and redeployment of ships on our routes and we expect to furlough around 300 more of our people onto government schemes.

“Despite these changes, P&O Ferries remains critical to maintaining the UK’s supplies and a vital part of our ability as a country to respond to the ongoing threat of Covid-19.

“We are committed to delivering a healthy and sustainable P&O Ferries that will become an even more important strategic asset for the UK, helping families and freight move easily and affordably between Britain, Ireland and Europe.”

P&O’s business model requires a mixture of passengers and freight on the ships, but the Covid-19 outbreak caused passenger numbers to collapse, leading the firm to come under pressure.

The firm has asked the UK government for £150m of support for its operations, but the problem is too big for any one party to solve on its own, so is had been working hard to secure support from its shareholder DP World and unions, totalling £257.5m, to safeguard jobs and the viability of the business.

The RMT has been contacted for a comment.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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