Published: 13:25, 24 June 2020
| Updated: 13:27, 24 June 2020
P&O Ferries is to begin a programme of voluntary redundancies as a "step in the right direction" from its controversial plans to cut 614 jobs at Dover.
The cross channel ferry operator has been negotiating with unions since it announced the cost saving measures in May - but it is not confirming how the number of voluntary redundancies compares with compulsory ones.
On Wednesday the RMT union called off a demonstration planned for Thursday which was to be held outside its Dover headquarters in Snargate Street.
This was to protest about "the public scandal" of the company accepting government handouts because of the coronavirus while planning job cuts.
It has since informed workers of the result of negotiations via a post on its website by general secretary Mick Cash.
It says: "The company will initiate a programme of voluntary redundancy commencing June 19. Letters will be issued to all ratings in the affected groups as detailed in the company’s consultation proposal.
"A period of 14 days will be given for individuals to make an application for voluntary redundancy."
The same terms of redundancy for compulsory and voluntary job losses will apply.
The RMT said: "The RMT has a policy of not agreeing to compulsory redundancies but in light of the company agreeing to voluntary terms for any compulsory redundancies the RMT has agreed in principle with the compulsory redundancy selection criteria ie attendance, disciplinary record and relevant skills. RMT would look to progress further discussion on the final details.
Mr Cash's announcement also claims P&O has reaffirmed its commitment to keeping a UK workforce at Dover. Plus, restrictions on re-employing redundant ratings within a year of their contracts ending has been waived meaning those made redundant could be re-employed when positions become available.
This answered the union's fears that foreign agency workers might be taken on in place of the skilled Dover workers at a fraction of the cost - leading to possible safety issues.
P&O Ferries's cost saving measures also involved the inception of a new rank, a general purposes role that includes deck and on board services duties. This was due to come into play when the two new super ferry vessels, currently under order, begin running.
"Although this represents a step in the right direction, there are still matters that will require further discussions..."
The RMT's missive to staff adds: "The company agree to retain the current rank structure for Deck and Tech roles on Dover Calais.
"The RMT agree to participate in a working group to discuss a new structure by the end of 2021 and prior to our new vessels being put into service.
"The company and the RMT continue to work closely and are committed to reduce where possible the number of redundancies envisaged in the company’s consultation proposals of the affected groups in all Departments in both Hull and Dover.
"Although this represents a step in the right direction, there are still matters that will require further discussions and representations to retain more jobs.
"Your union will continue to remain vigilant over this matter and I will, of course, keep you advised of any new developments."
P&O Ferries has been shown the document and has chosen not to comment. The company is not revealing how voluntary redundancies compare to compulsory ones.
The RMT has been approached for any updates.