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Labour forces Commons vote to demand reinstatement of P&O Ferries workers and end to 'fire and rehire'

20 March 2022

The Labour Party is to force an emergency vote in Parliament on Monday to demand that P&O Ferries reinstate the 800 workers it sacked last week, and to insist that the government strengthen protections for workers.

The vote will call on the government to:

  • Outlaw fire and rehire and bring forward an urgent bill to strengthen workers rights
  • Suspend the contracts of DP World – the owner of P&O Ferries – until the current situation is resolved
  • Remove DP World from the UK government's Transport Advisory Group, to which it was appointed by the now-Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss 'to provide knowledge, experience and strategic expertise' on trade negotiations

Labour's decision to stage the vote follows mass outrage among the public, press and MPs after P&O Ferries sacked 800 British seafarers by Zoom on Thursday. The company is seeking to replace the longstanding, skilled crew with cheaper agency labour.

The Labour Motion contains several key demands of Nautilus International, which is also calling for the government to: pursue any legal option available against P&O Ferries; share any legal advice on the matter of legal action; and ensure that the Maritime & Coastguard agency inspects every P&O Ferries vessel before it sails again and releases its investigation reports.

'Labour will fight every step of the way for the jobs and livelihoods of these loyal workers,' Louise Haigh MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, said.

'This scandalous action must be a line in the sand. If P&O ferries can get away with this, it will give the green light to other exploitative employers.

'It is the consequence of the Tory assault on workers' rights. A Labour government will strengthen employee protections and ban fire and rehire to give people the security they deserve for an honest day's work.

'No more excuses, on Monday Tory MPs must join with Labour and vote to ban cruel fire and rehire for good. They must decide which side they are on - loyal workers in Britain or billionaires riding roughshod over rights.'

Commenting on the news, a Department for Transport spokesperson said:

'Ministers and officials have expressed their outrage and frustration at P&O Ferries on their decision and handling of their announcement, and are closely considering the Department's relationship with the company. 

'The Transport Secretary has instructed a total examination of any contract in place with P&O Ferries and DP World across government, and the Department is working closely with unions, Department for Work and Pensions, and industry bodies to ensure that workers are supported and signposted to the most relevant support.

'We have serious concerns that their handling may not have followed the correct and legal processes, and strongly urge P&O Ferries to pause the changes announced, and speak with workers to repair the damage caused.'

The full text of the Labour Party motion is as follows:

Labour Opposition Day Debate Motion, Monday 21 March

'That this House condemns the decision of P&O Ferries to fire 800 staff without notice and demands their immediate reinstatement; notes that DP World, the owner of P&O Ferries, received millions of pounds of taxpayers' money during the coronavirus pandemic; calls on the Government to suspend the contracts and licences of DP World and remove them from the Government's Transport Advisory Group; and further calls on the Government to bring forward a Bill urgently to outlaw fire and rehire and strengthen workers' rights.'


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