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Nautilus calls for immediate government action against P&O Ferries

19 March 2022

Nautilus International is calling on the British government to pursue any possible legal action against P&O Ferries over the company's decision to summarily lay off 800 British workers.

General secretary Mark Dickinson has laid out this position in a letter to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport.

'We welcome the statements from both the Maritime Minister and Secretary of State, we appreciate the words of support for our members and the anger it conveyed. With respect we need action not words,' Mr Dickinson writes.

In addition to legal action, Nautilus asks that the government end all contracts with P&O Ferries and its parent company DP World and use this leverage to restore the 800 jobs; that it revoke the company's licences to operate vessels in British waters; and that it claw back all money given to the company during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nautilus further demands that the Maritime & Coastguard Agency inspect all vessels before they are permitted to set sail – and make its inspection reports public – to ensure safety onboard.

It also calls for the government to close the loophole in employment law that allows companies to 'fire and rehire' on lower wages and worse terms and conditions.

The full letter reads as follows:

Dear Secretary of State,

The actions of P&O Ferries, terminating the employment of 800 British seafarers with immediate effect and without any consultation, is deplorable and a betrayal of British workers.

You will be aware, this Dubai based company, with no British flagged vessels, but with hundreds of British employees, claimed millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money during the pandemic, yet they have terminated the employment of a loyal, experienced, well-trained, workforce without any warning.

This decision by P&O is a major blow to the British maritime industry. A key objective of the government through the Maritime 2050 strategy is to grow our skills base and inspire young people to pursue maritime careers. Nautilus supports this strategy, but this despicable decision by P&O Ferries flies directly in the face of the efforts of government and industry to showcase the best of maritime and highlight how rewarding a career in maritime can be. We can not sit back and allow P&O Ferries to sink the nation’s maritime strategy.

Nautilus International will be supporting our members and challenging the behaviour of P&O Ferries. However, it is imperative that the UK government intervenes to protect jobs and hold P&O Ferries accountable for breaching UK law and failing to properly consult.

Nautilus is calling on the government to:

  • Pursue any legal option available, including criminal proceedings, for P&O's failure to follow their statutory obligation to inform the Secretary of State in advance of making mass redundancies
  • To share legal advice with us on the matter of criminal action against P&O
  • End any contracts it currently has with P&O Ferries and its parent company DP World as a matter of urgency, and leverage future government support to restore the jobs lost. This includes the contract to operate the Thames freeport
  • Revoke all P&O Ferries licences to operate vessels in British waters
  • Claw back every penny P&O Ferries received in British tax payer money during the pandemic

Additionally, Nautilus is deeply concerned with the intention of P&O ferries to reintroduce its vessels with seafarers who are not trained and familiar with the vessels and routes operated by the company:

  • Government, through the MCA, must inspect every P&O vessel before it sets sail and make its inspection report public

This outrageous action by P&O also exposes a clear gap in British employment law. Fire and rehire is a legal loophole that allows unscrupulous employers to circumvent legal protections for workers, this should never have been allowed to happen:

  • Government must, with haste, outlaw fire and rehire – no dither or delay.

We welcome the statements from both the Maritime Minister and Secretary of State, we appreciate the words of support for our members and the anger it conveyed. With respect we need action not words.

I stand ready to meet with you and with P&O Ferries management to find a way forward that respects UK law, respects our members, their professionalism, protects jobs and the safe operations of the company’s vessels.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Dickinson

Nautilus International


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