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Transport Secretary Calls For "Brazen" P&O Boss To Quit After Mass Sackings

Grant Shapps urged the P&O Chief Executive to resign

3 min read

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has urged the P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite to consider his position as the scandal over the sacking of 800 workers continues to grow.

The P&O chief executive admitted in an extraordinary Commons committee session on Thursday that the company had broken the law by sacking 800 workers without consultation, instead planning to compensate workers over the company's failure to follow the rules. 

Shapps said Hebblethwaite's comments showed "brazen, breathtaking arrogance" and insisted he should resign.

"He needs to consider his position, in fact, he needs to resign," Shapps said.

"We will not allow the situation to rest where it is.

"He deliberately sought to hide what the company was doing, break the law – by his own admission – break the law, and sack those workers and then pay them not to take P&O to tribunal and remploy those positions on well below the minimum wage. That is unacceptable."

Hebblethwaite said P&O had taken the action because "no union could accept our proposals" and claming that without bringing in cheaper workers the leading ferry operator would have "no future".

The chief executive added there was "absolutely no doubt" they were required to consult with the unions but chose not to do so, and asked about the handling of the sackings, Hebblethwaite admitted he would do it again.

Shapps believed P&O had "very creatively" looked for loopholes which had allowed them to change their working conditions, including by registering their ships in Cyprus and other countries.

"It is disgraceful and I am going to bring forward a package of measures this week to Parliament that will force them to U-turn. They might as well know that today and they might as well start taking action."

Shapps told Sky News he had already spoken to his Labour opposite number Lou Haigh to discuss ways to build a "consensus" for new legislative action.

"My message to P&O is simple: their wheezes are not going to work. We are going to legally require them to go back on it. They might as well start on that now. And if they haven't got the right leadership there to do it at the moment.

"Yesterday we saw through that brazen breathtaking arrogance that they don't, then they will probably need to think about sorting that out first."

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