U.S. markets closed
  • S&P 500

    3,831.39
    +6.06 (+0.16%)
     
  • Dow 30

    30,967.82
    -129.44 (-0.42%)
     
  • Nasdaq

    11,322.24
    +194.39 (+1.75%)
     
  • Russell 2000

    1,741.33
    +13.57 (+0.79%)
     
  • Crude Oil

    99.55
    +0.05 (+0.05%)
     
  • Gold

    1,763.80
    -0.10 (-0.01%)
     
  • Silver

    19.04
    -0.56 (-2.84%)
     
  • EUR/USD

    1.0270
    -0.0154 (-1.48%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    2.8090
    -0.0800 (-2.77%)
     
  • GBP/USD

    1.1954
    -0.0151 (-1.25%)
     
  • USD/JPY

    135.8430
    +0.1830 (+0.13%)
     
  • BTC-USD

    20,397.25
    +499.55 (+2.51%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    443.95
    +3.93 (+0.89%)
     
  • FTSE 100

    7,025.47
    -207.18 (-2.86%)
     
  • Nikkei 225

    26,423.47
    +269.66 (+1.03%)
     

P&O Ferries: Grant Shapps orders operator to rehire 800 sacked staff

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
P&O Ferries previously said that its business was no longer viable after making a £100m loss year-on-year. Photo: PA
P&O Ferries previously said that its business was no longer viable after making a £100m loss year-on-year. Photo: PA

Britain's transport secretary Grant Shapps has told P&O Ferries to rehire the 800 crew members it sacked earlier this month as he prepares to overhaul employment laws for seafarers.

Shapps is introducing new legislation in the Commons later this week to force all ferry firms operating from UK ports to pay at least the national minimum wage in hopes the sacked workers will be reinstated.

UK law requires employers to consult with trade unions and pay the legal minimum wage, now £8.91 ($11.71) an hour for employees 23 and older. This will go up to £9.50 from 1 April.

However, maritime firms that sail in international waters can avoid these rules by registering their ships in other countries.

The move will close legal loopholes and undermine P&O's plans to replace the staff with low-paid agency workers.

Bosses from two of P&O's competitors, DFDS (DFDS.CO) and Stena Lines, are set to meet Department for Transport officials later to discuss the planned changes to the law.

The transport secretary wrote to P&O CEO Peter Hebblethwaite telling him to step down, describing his tenure as untenable"

He said he will introduce a "package of measures" intended to "block the outcome that P&O Ferries has pursued".

"Through that package, I intend to block the outcome that P&O Ferries has pursued, including paying workers less than the minimum wage," he added.

Shapps said: "With the above in mind, you have one further opportunity to reverse this decision by immediately offering all 800 workers their jobs back on their previous terms, conditions and wages."

Watch: P&O Ferries: Government to meet with bosses from rival firms after sacking scandal

Hebblethwaite has also faced calls to resign, backed by UK prime minister Boris Johnson, after he admitted to MPs last week that he had known sacking the workers without notice was against the law.

Johnson has threatened to take action against the ferry operator, saying that the government "will not sit by" as P&O's dismissals may have broken the law, with the company facing millions in fines if it has.

Meanwhile, trade unions have raised the alarm over a lack of safety and training for new crews after job ad "with no previous experience at sea required" was posted on Facebook.

CSM Baltics — part of Columbia Shipmanagement, one of the world’s biggest ship managers — has posted an advert saying: "We are looking for a large number of stewards to work 12 hours a day on board our ships and to have rest of 12 hours in hotels in France. No seafarers’ documents are needed, just previous experience in hospitality institutions."

Read more: P&O sackings lead to mass protest as UK warns of 'ramifications'

Last week, P&O announced that it will pay out £36.5m ($48m) in compensation to the 800 seafarers it sacked after a major backlash from unions and government officials.

The operator, owned by Dubai-based DP World made hundreds of its workers redundant in a Zoom (ZM) meeting with immediate effect earlier in March after stopping all its sailings before the announcement.

It said: "Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries. These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options."

The eight ferries the sacked staff worked on, which service routes including Dover-Calais and Larne-Ciarnryan, are all registered in the Bahamas, Cyprus, or Bermuda.

In their place P&O has hired agency staff on as little as £5.50 per hour.

Read more: Boris Johnson says P&O sackings may amount to breaking the law

P&O previously said that its business was no longer viable after making a £100m loss year-on-year.

Reports suggest the company found that it would cost £309m to run the business before the sudden sackings, with chiefs deciding to scrap plans for staff consultations.

The business, which hires around 4,000 employees in total, said back in May 2020 that it may have to make 1,100 redundancies due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As one of the UK’s leading ferry firms, P&O carried more than 10 million passengers a year before the pandemic, and was responsible for around 15% of all freight cargo in and out of Britain.

P&O operates four routes: Dover to Calais; Hull to Rotterdam; Liverpool to Dublin; and Cairnryan, Scotland to Larne, Northern Ireland.

Watch: Shapps calls for P&O boss to resign