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Industrial

Dover protest: unions launch Fair Ferries campaign to demand an end to fire and rehire

1 April 2022

Unions have stepped up action against P&O Ferries demanding that the company be brought to task for its immoral and illegal actions.

Joint action by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), Nautilus International and the RMT, comes after P&O Ferries sacked 800 seafarers two weeks ago. One Zoom call, 30 minutes notice, and 800 lives, 800 families, 800 homes, communities have been changed forever.

A protest video was projected onto the white cliffs of Dover featuring footage of P&O Ferries CEO, Peter Hebblethwaite, brazenly telling MPs that P&O Ferries had broken the law by failing to consult Unions, and his shocking admission that ‘I would make this decision again.’

Government must now deliver on the Fair Ferries framework agreement developed with unions and industry as this would ensure such actions by rogue ferry operators can never happen again Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson

The unions believe that the actions announced by UK Government so far – which include welcome action on the minimum wage but do not include prosecuting the company for violating the law on the need to consult, any action on the many government contracts enjoyed by DP World, or any serious attempt to restore the jobs of the 800 workers – are simply not enough. P&O Ferries has set a dangerous precedent that a company can flagrantly flout the laws of this country and go unpunished. Government needs to act, and if the laws do not protect workers, they must change.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson, featured in the video, said: 'Some of them have given their lives to this company, 40 years, they don’t want to lose their jobs. Government must now deliver on the Fair Ferries framework agreement developed with unions and industry as this would ensure such actions by rogue ferry operators can never happen again.'

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: 'This stunt signals the start of our Fair Ferries campaign. We want to establish collective agreements in the maritime sector as the minimum employment standard on international ferry routes from UK ports.

'The Government must introduce legislation to ban fire and rehire as the current laws allow employers to get away with the most appalling employment practices. This is how we will prevent grave injustices like P&O Ferries from happening again.'

General secretary of the ITF Steve Cotton said: 'This battle is about respect. Respect for working men and women. My message to all transport workers, and all workers in the UK, is that unless we act this could happen to you. We must make the UK government fix these broken laws so this never happens again.'

General secretary of the ETF Livia Spera said: 'This is not just about these 800 seafarers, this is about an immoral move by P&O Ferries, that’s simply not acceptable. It sets a dangerous precedent that we cannot let stand, the laws must change.'

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady also featured, saying: 'Every worker deserves decent treatment at work.'

Without immediate action, the P&O Ferries sackings will be a template for employers across the country to ruthlessly fire workers and replace them with cheaper, more easily exploitable labour. Government must act to prevent another P&O Ferries’ style jobs massacre.

Unions have created a protests letter than members can send to their local MPs: Demand change now: itfglobal.org/end-fire-rehire


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