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Shadow middle east minister asks UAE ambassador for answers on P&O Ferries

23 March 2022

Bambos Charalambous MP, Shadow Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, has written to the UAE’s ambassador to the UK regarding the P&O Ferries situation, which he describes as a ‘national scandal’.

DP World, the parent company of P&O Ferries, is based in the emirate of Dubai, which is part of the UAE. It is owned by the Dubai sovereign wealth fund, which is controlled by the emirate’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

On Monday, two MPs confirmed in Parliament that P&O Ferries executives told them the impetus to sack UK-based seafarers and replace them with agency staff had come from DP World.

In his letter, Mr Charalambous asks the ambassador to urge DP World to:

  • live up to its social commitments and abide by the principles of the UN Global Compact by showing respect to all workers, including seafarers
  • encourage P&O Ferries to convene a meeting with Nautilus International, the RMT Union and the UK government and rectify the current situation
  • commit to social dialogue, respectful industrial relations and a closer relationship with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its affiliates

'DP World claims it values "relationships built on a foundation of mutual trust and enduring partnership" and wants to be a world-leader on environmental, social and governance factors (ESG),' Mr Charalambous says in the letter. 'It signed up to the UN Global Compact committing to respect workers’ fundamental rights. Yet these statements are meaningless if DP World allows its subsidiary company P&O Ferries to act illegally and directly undermine those very rights in the UK.'

The full text of the letter is as follows:


Dear H.E Ambassador Mansoor Abulhoul

I am writing to you today about the P&O Ferries scandal.

On Thursday 17 March P&O Ferries sacked 800 staff with immediate effect, via a prerecorded video message. There was no consultation with trade unions. This is a national scandal, and a betrayal of a loyal workforce who were key workers during the pandemic.

P&O Ferries is owned by DP World, and the decision to terminate the employment of 800 crew comes a week after DP World reported record earnings of $3.8 billion, according to a press release issued on 10 March 2022.

DP World’s parent company, Dubai World, is based in Dubai, and is part of the Dubai sovereign wealth fund. Dubai World is controlled by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

DP World claims it values “relationships built on a foundation of mutual trust and enduring partnership” and wants to be a world-leader on environmental, social and governance factors (ESG). It signed up to the UN Global Compact committing to respect workers’ fundamental rights. Yet these statements are meaningless if DP World allows its subsidiary company P&O Ferries to act illegally and directly undermine those very rights in the UK.

Given the links between P&O Ferries and Dubai, I would be grateful if you could confirm the following:

Have you had any communications with DP World since the decision taken in relation to the P&O Ferries workforce on Thursday?

Can you urge DP World to encourage its UK subsidiary P&O Ferries to convene a meeting with the unions, Nautilus International and RMT, together with the UK Government, to seek to rectify the current situation?

Will you urge DP World to guarantee that it will uphold its ESG commitments and abide by the principles of the UN Global Compact by showing respect to all workers including seafarers in its global supply chain?

Finally, can you ask DP World to commit to social dialogue, respectful industrial relations and to develop a closer relationship with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its affiliates across all DP World-owned subsidiaries?

Thank you for your continued dialogue with me, it is much appreciated. I would be most grateful for your urgent response to these questions.

Yours sincerely,

Bambos Charalambous MP