The bosses of two of P&O Ferries’ rivals are due to meet government officials to discuss the fallout from the company’s widely criticized decision to lay off 800 staff.
The Department for Transport (DfT) invited DFDS and Stena Lines to talks on Monday, amid concerns over chaos at ports over the Easter holiday. The department confirmed the meeting was taking place, but declined to comment on the topics of discussion.
But a spokesperson said: ‘Ministers are working to understand how we can ensure the continuation of services in conjunction with other operators including DFDS and Stena. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ call for P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite to step down following the mass dismissal of hundreds of workers without notice on March 17, with replacements being paid minimum wage .
The meeting is set to take place after news agency PA learned that P&O Ferries last year carried out a study into options to support the business, which calculated it would cost £309m to maintain company while consulting staff on job losses. He decided not to hold a full staff consultation on his plans to cut nearly 800 jobs, a move that drew a huge backlash from unions and politicians.
A company source said the study had calculated it would cost £309m to keep the company going for a consultancy period of at least three months, adding that there was no take-back guarantee. Months of consultations would have undermined the business, caused disruption that would have led customers to leave for competitors, dealing a “fatal blow” to P&O, the source told PA.
P&O believes it has safeguarded the long-term future of the business and the livelihoods of 2,200 employees. A P&O spokesman said: “Over 90% of affected seafarers are in discussions to progress with redundancy offers. We are sorry for those affected and their families for the impact this has had on them. They have lost their jobs and there is anger and shock, which we fully understand.
“We needed a fundamental change to make the business viable. It was an incredibly difficult decision that we struggled with, but once we knew it was the only way to save the company, we had to act. All other routes resulted in the loss of 3,000 jobs and the closure of P&O Ferries. By making this difficult choice, we have secured the future viability of P&O Ferries and secured Britain’s trading capacity. We are committed to providing continued and ongoing support to all affected employees, former and current. »
The company said the settlement with its workers would be the biggest pay package in the UK maritime industry. A total of 40 employees are receiving more than £100,000 with some receiving more than £170,000, P&O said. The total value of the financial settlement is over £36 million. Demonstrations took place in Liverpool, Hull and Dover on Saturday with more planned for the coming days. The Rail, Maritime and Transport and Nautilus International unions are urging the company to reverse the redundancies and the government to take action against P&O. A vessel operated by the ferry company was arrested on Friday for “unfit to sail”.
The European Causeway vessel has been held up at Larne Port in Northern Ireland due to “failures in crew familiarization, vessel documentation and crew training”, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said. ). Mr Hebblethwaite admitted to MPs the company broke the law by not consulting the redundancies.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “The campaign to get workers back on the ships, to operate these crucial ferry links continues safely and the company must face the harsh reality and to assume their responsibilities. for their grotesque actions.
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