UK MPs have voted in favour of an Opposition Day Motion condemning P&O Ferries and demanding that the government take action to improve employment protection for all workers in light of the company’s actions.
The vote was passed by 211 votes to none, with the government abstaining. The Labour party forced the emergency vote in parliament on the motion, which calls on the UK 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.
As an Opposition Day Motion, the outcome of the vote is not considered legally binding on the government but it does represent the will of Parliament. During the debate, Conservative MPs also revealed that P&O Ferries management told them the decision to make the workers redundant came directly from P&O’s Dubai-owned parent company DP World.
Speaking at the parliamentary debate, shadow secretary of state for transport Louise Haigh criticised government inaction so far and called for them to move against P&O Ferries:
They knew that, when they did what they did, the government would not stand in their way. The impotent response so far from ministers shows they were right to think so
Responding to other MPs, who pointed out that it would be shameful that vessels with names such as Pride of Kent and Pride of Hull should operate without any UK seafarers onboard, transport secretary Grant Shapps said it would be ‘ridiculous’ and that he would lobby to change the names of the ships.
However, Mr Shapps did lay out some current government actions:
- Review all government contracts with both P&O and DP World as a matter of urgency and consider other providers
- Continue considering legal action over how the layoffs were conducted. He confirmed that this could include criminal action
- Continue talking with ACAS regarding ‘fire and rehire’
- Take further steps to remove P&O Ferries from positions on key advisory boards. ‘We don’t want to see them advising on how British maritime is shaped’
- Speaking to Department of Work and Pensions to see that anyone who needs it is supported
- Putting workers in touch with other employers
Later, business, energy and industrial strategy minister Paul Scully said it was highly likely the company had breached existing laws when making employees redundant under UK jurisdiction.
In addition, Mr Shapps has instructed the MCA to inspect all the vessels, including operational drills to ensure the new crews are safe and properly trained.
If they are not, these ships will not sail. I suspect the public will want to vote with their feet and choose another provider
Commenting P&O Ferries’ decision, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) called on DP World to engage in meaningful dialogue with affiliates RMT and Nautilus International about P&O Ferries’ future.
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