The lack of action by Tory ministers against P&O bosses who unlawfully sacked hundreds of seafarers a year ago is a “national disgrace,” RMT’s Mick Lynch charged yesterday.
Addressing a protest in Westminster ahead of the first anniversary of the scandal later this week, the maritime union’s leader said: “Everyone was outraged but nothing has come up to punish P&O or to protect our people.”
On March 17 2022, the company — owned by Dubai-based DP World — suddenly fired 786 British-based seafarers without union consultation and replaced them with cheaper labour, largely from overseas.
The sacking by Zoom video, followed by forcible escorting of workers off ships by balaclava-clad goons, was criticised by then-PM Boris Johnson, but the government took little action.
PM Rishi Sunak has since introduced anti-strike legislation to Parliament, which could see workers sacked for refusing to cross their own picket lines.
Mr Lynch said:
“It is a national disgrace that the government has taken no concrete action to punish this rogue company DP World.
By making it harder to take industrial action with minimum service legislation, the government is also going to make it harder to resolve disputes and to repair industrial relations across the transport and offshore sectors.
RMT will continue to campaign for stronger seafarers’ rights through fair pay agreements, revoking P&O Ferries’ royal charter, banning DP World from freeport tax reliefs, ending discrimination at sea and the scrapping of anti-trade union laws.”
Yesterday’s demo, which was visited by several Labour MPs including Ian Lavery, Richard Burgon, Beth Winter and Kim Johnson, saw activists gather behind banners proclaiming “never forget, never forgive” in Old Palace Yard outside Parliament.
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh told the crowd that bosses “knew they would get away with it, and the government has let them get away with it.”
A government spokesperson claimed ministers reacted “swiftly and decisively” to the mass sacking, despite the Insolvency Service’s decision not to pursue legal action against P&O.
The spokesperson also hailed Downing Street’s new nine-point plan to protect workers in the sector, which includes developing a statutory code to combat widely discredited fire-and-rehire practices.
But in October 2021, just months before the scandal, Tory MPs were instructed to filibuster Labour MP Barry Gardiner’s private member’s Bill which aimed to outlaw the widely discredited tactic.
A P&O Ferries spokesman said: “Our business is critical in maintaining supply chains, enabling tourism and supporting UK exports.”
This piece was first published in the Morning Star