Last Thursday P&O Ferries – the multinational shipping company based here in Britain – made the decision to sack all its British seafaring staff with immediate effect.
800 workers were told via Zoom that their employment was being terminated, and that they would be replaced by cheaper agency workers. After Unions acted, and many who were fired refused to leave their ships, security guards with balaclavas and handcuffs began to forcibly remove staff, some of whom had been employed by P&O Ferries for more than 30 years.
It is hard to articulate just how angry this story makes me. It is one of the most shameful episodes of corporate bullying I have ever seen in all my years as a Member of Parliament. What is even more infuriating, is that it has now transpired that the Government knew in advance that P&O Ferries were planning to take this action but did absolutely nothing to prevent the sackings or protect workers. Instead, they sat back and watched as P&O Ferries snatched jobs from workers who had kept us fuelled and fed during the pandemic.
Under UK law, employers planning to make 20 or more staff redundant within any 90-day period, must first consult staff and speak to trade union representatives. P&O Ferries apparently decided to ignore this aspect of the law, and instead decided to sack employees on the spot.
Unions and workers are now taking a stand against the actions of P&O Ferries, something that I wholeheartedly support. On Monday, Labour forced an emergency vote on worker’s rights. It called on the Government to outlaw the disgraceful practise of Fire and Rehire and suspend its contracts with P&O Ferries’ owners until the matter is resolved.
The Conservatives opted to abstain in a vote on these tough measures, in a bitterly disappointing decision that sends the wrong message to hard working people across the country. People in Tameside – and indeed people right across the country – deserve to be represented by a Government that is committed to upholding, enforcing, and strengthening our labour laws.
Here in Greater Manchester, workers have fought for decades for better employment protections and stronger labour laws. To have the Government turn a blind eye to such an obvious attack on workers is beyond insulting, and sets a very worrying precedent.
We need to send a message that these kinds of callous and disgraceful employment practises will not be tolerated in 21st Century Britain.