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P&O Ferries in backlash after ‘heartless sacking’

P&O Ferries has hit the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons.

P&O yesterday (17 March) sacked all its 800 employees without notice and replaced them with cheaper agency staff, which had already been recruited.

P&O bosses said that it was a “tough” decision, but that the business would not be viable without “swift and significant changes”. They said the business had lost £100m a year throughout the pandemic, costs that had been covered by their parent company, Dubai owned DP World, which reported a £683m profit last year.

P&O Ferries is now facing legal challenges over the sackings, many of which were done over a 3 minute long Zoom call.

The RMT union has called it “one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations”.

Sarah Naylor, employment law solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “The law is clear about employer’s obligations. Where there are redundancies affecting more than 20 people there should be consultation with the employees and their representatives, and the government notified that jobs are at risk. P&O appear to have circumvented the process by offering enhanced redundancy pay. While this is not unheard of, it is exceptional.

“Whether the enhanced redundancy sufficiently compensates for the sudden job loss and appalling treatment of the workforce remains to be seen. The company could still face hundreds of unfair dismissal claims.”

The government has said it will be reviewing its contract with P&O after the sackings, saying that the treatment of the staff is “wholly unacceptable”. There are also calls for the government to insist that P&O repay the millions it received in furlough payments during the pandemic.

The P&O fleet of ships are now registered in Cyprus having been moved there following the UKs exit from the European Union.

P&O is an abbreviation of The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. It was bought by DP World, a multi-national ports and logistics company, in 2019 for £322m