P&O Ferries lays off 800 employees and suspends sailing, saying it’s not sustainable

Three P&O Ferries, Spirit of Britain, Pride of Canterbury and Pride of Kent, are docking at the cruise terminal at the Port of Dover in Kent as the company suspended services ahead of a “major announcement” but insists it “is not going into liquidation”. .”

Gareth Fuller | PA images | Getty Images

LONDON – British ferry operator P&O Ferries on Thursday laid off 800 employees and immediately suspended operations, saying the business as it stands is “not viable.”

The company ordered its workers to return to ports ahead of a “major announcement” earlier on Thursday, which is expected to cause severe disruption to passenger and freight traffic.

Amid speculation that employees should be replaced with cheaper agency staff, unions have urged employees to stay on board, potentially leading to a potential standoff. The BBC reported that some crew members were indeed ignoring orders and refusing to leave their ships in protest.

P&O Ferries, which reportedly has nearly 4,000 employees and more than 30,000 flights annually, is struggling due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions that have hampered the travel industry for the past two years.

“As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate layoff notices and compensating for their lack of prior notice with expanded compensation packages,” a P&O spokesperson said.

The firm said it lost £100 million (US$131 million) year-on-year, which was covered by its owner Dubai port company DP World.

This is not sustainable. Our survival depends on rapid and significant change right now.

“It’s not sustainable,” the spokesman said. “Our survival depends on rapid and significant change now. Without these changes, P&O Ferries has no future.”

The company added that it could not operate flights in the coming days, advising passengers to continue traveling to ports where they would be accommodated by other carriers.

Workers union ‘deeply alarmed’

The British Transport Union RMT expressed dismay at the sudden announcement, urging the government to intervene and protect P&O personnel from potential replacements.

“We are deeply concerned by growing rumors that the company plans to lay off hundreds of British seafarers today and replace them with foreign labor,” RMT said in a statement on its website.

Images on Twitter appear to show shift crew trainers and security officers who are already working in the British ports of Dover and Hull.

“We have instructed our members to remain on board and demand that our members in all P&O operations in the UK are protected and the Secretary of State intervenes to save UK seafarers from the unemployment line,” he added, referring to the UK welfare system. for unemployment.

Unions and the government’s opposition Labor Party have accused some companies of trying to “fire and rehire” employees, effectively shifting them from full-time workers to those with weaker, lower-pay contracts.

Earlier Thursday, Labor Shadow Transport Minister Louise Hay called on the government to act, noting that “unscrupulous employers should not be given free rein to fire their workforce from guaranteed jobs and replace them with agency employees.”

The UK government said it would make a statement on the matter on Thursday at 17:00 local time.

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