The UK Ferry operator P&O Ferries sacked 800 crew members across its entire fleet, according to international media. This is strongly condemned by the Swedish seafarers’ union Seko sjöfolk.
P&O Ferries operates several routes between UK and France, the Netherlands and Belgium as well as between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
On Thursday the company is said to have stopped all its sailings. According to the British Guardian P&O plans to replace the crew with cheap agency staff, which the crew onboard was told by a pre-recorded video message. Before that, they are said to have received information by the company that “a major announcement” were to be made, and because of this the ships were asked to discharge their passengers and cargo and stand by in port for further instructions.
The British union RMT (Union for Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) said the sackings and the company’s acting was “one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations”, according to The Guardian. The union instructed their members to stay onboard, and has also demanded that the secretary of state intervenes.
The maritime union Nautilus International said this was “a betrayal of British workers”.
“It is nothing short of scandalous, given that this Dubai-owned company received British taxpayer’s money during the pandemic”, general secretary Mark Dickinson said to the Guardian.
He also said that the union stands ready to act in defence of its members.
According to several media, security staff were seen at the quays in Dover and Larne (near Belfast) on Thursday. RMT said that guards tried to board ships to remove crew.
A spokesperson for P&O is said to have said that the company had to take a “very difficult but necessary decision”. Today the business is not viable and its survival is dependent on making “swift and significant changes now”.
Trade unions have condemned the act of the company, calling it shameful, unacceptable and a scandalous betrayal. Politicians on both sides have called on the government to act, according to The Guardian.
The president of the Swedish Seafarers’ Union Seko sjöfolk strongly comdemned how P&O has treated their crew.
”We condemn the principle of replacing the crew with cheap agency staff, as well as the fact that there was no notice nor consultation given by P&O”, he said.
”We call for the public as well as international organisations like the ITF, the ITF and the NTF to boycott this shipping company. No one should travel with P&O Ferries”, Kenny Reinhold said.