Shapps 'concerned' over P&O jobs massacre


The chair of the Transport Select Committee has warned that the British public ‘will not wear’ an attempt by P&O ferries to replace its workforce with overseas labour.

On Thursday the firm sacked 800 UK staff without notice as part of what it called ‘a programme of work to become a more competitive and efficient operator'. It plans to replace the workers with cheaper agency staff.

It warned customers of ‘significant disruption across P&O Ferries services over the next few days’, claiming that it was ‘working to minimise the impact on your journey’.

Transport Select Committee chair Huw Merriman MP called on the Government to ‘do everything it can to ensure that this appalling employment transaction cannot be completed’, adding that ‘concern remains as to whether this is lawful’.

He said: ‘Firing loyal staff and replacing them with cheaper labour sourced from elsewhere is not a model that the public will wear. That model was not acceptable when our national flag carrier airline attempted to adopt it, and it is not acceptable now. The Government should make it clear that it will not condone this behaviour.

‘P&O’s parent company, DP World, must understand that British customers won’t do business with companies that treat their staff with contempt.’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps took a more conciliatory line, stating that he was ‘very concerned’ and ‘would be speaking to the company today to understand the impact on workers and passengers’.

The RMT Union said Mr Shapps had known of the company’s plan in advance ‘but failed to act’.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘We have been overwhelmed by the widespread public and political support for our campaign to protect our members jobs and these vital services. We welcome the fact that the Government’s own MPs are calling for radical action and yesterday’s events should also mark a sea change in how we treat workers in this country.

‘The fact that the government knew the day before that a foreign owned company planned to cause major disruption to UK ports but did nothing to prevent it is shocking.

‘But there is still time reverse this shameful decision and today we are presenting a plan of action which needs to be acted upon immediately and if necessary, the government should introduce enabling legislation to make it happen.’

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