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Transport Minister Is "Angry" Over "Wholly Unacceptable" Sacking Of P&O Ferry Staff

2 min read

Transport minister Robert Courts has criticised the "insensitive" approach taken by P&O after the leading ferry operator made 800 staff redundant today.

P&O announced it had temporarily halted operations as it laid off hundreds of staff and said they would be replaced with cheaper agency workers.

Staff were informed they were being made redundant with immediate effect via pre-recorded video message on Thursday, with some being removed by security staff hired by the company.

Responding to the move, Courts told the House of Commons that the company's treatment of staff was "wholly unacceptable".

"These are hardworking, dedicated staff who have given years in service to P&O. The way they have been treated today is wholly unacceptable, and my thoughts are first and foremost with them," he told MPs.

"Reports of workers being given zero notice and escorted off their ships with immediate effect while being told cheaper alternatives would take up their roles shows the insensitive way in which P&O have approached this issue, a point which I have made crystal clear to P&O's management when I spoke to them earlier this afternoon."

Court said he had told P&O management he was "extremely concerned and frankly, angry at the way workers have been treated today" and had instructed his staff to ensure staff were "signposted" to government support schemes.

A Downing Street spokesperson agreed the treatment of P&O staff today was "unacceptable". 

"Clearly the way that this was communicated to staff was not right and we have made that clear," they said. 

"Our sympathies are with these hardworking employees affected during this challenging time who have given years of service to P&O."

The firm said it had made the layoffs due to a £100m loss, partially as a result of the pandemic, which had been covered by its Dubai-based parent company, DP World.

But shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said the behaviour of P&O was a "national scandal" and the decision to send in security to remove sacked workers was "beneath contempt – the action of thugs".

"It is a betrayal of the workers who have kept this country stocked throughout the pandemic. I have heard directly from the crew throughout the day," she said.

"Their lives upended, the jobs they dependened on scrapped. Workers are now left wondering how on earth they will put food on their families tables. And the management did not even have the decency to tell them face-to-face. They were told this life changing news on a pre-recorded video."

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