Legality of P&O Ferries mass sackings questioned by Rishi Sunak as Archbishop of York says ships should remain in port until staffing scandal resolved

CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak has appeared to question the legality of P&O’s decision to sack 800 staff without warning as the Archbishop of York today backs calls for the firm’s ferries to remain in dock until the scandal is resolved.

Mr Sunak condemned the treatment of P&O staff as “appalling” and confirmed that Ministers are examining whether the operator’s parent company DP World complied with workers’ rights “as they should have done”.

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Protesters at the Port of Hull after the mass sacking of 800 P&O staff sparked outrage.

Protests continue in Hull – and other ports where P&O operate – after seafarers were sacked in a pre-recorded video call last Thursday and told that they were being replaced by agency staff at cheaper rates.

It has prompted Labour and trade unions to condemn the lack of consultation – and the ethics of ‘fire and rehire’ employment practices being adopted by multi-national firms like DP World.

Meanwhile P&O vessels like the Pride of Hull remain in dock as Archbishop Stephen Cottrell challenges Dubai-based DP World to reconsider its decision.

“I am deeply concerned by the impact of the sackings of P&O staff members based in Hull,” said the Archbishop. “This has been done without recourse to any of the usual processes, nor does it treat workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.

The P&O ferry Pride of Hull in the Port of Hull, East Yorkshire,

“I call on P&O management to reconsider this decision, especially in the light of the huge profits their parent company makes. If P&O isn’t prepared to right this wrong, then I sincerely hope the Secretary of State for Transport will use every power available to him to intervene and restrict the company’s ability to operate until the matter is satisfactorily resolved.”

Mr Sunak did not indicate that the loss-making P&O should reimburse the £15m that it received in furlough and Covid payments at a time when DP World, which specialises in cargo logistics, saw profits surge by 5.9 per cent in 2021 to $896m.

“What we are seeing is appalling. The way they have treated their workers is awful. It is wrong,” he told the BBC. “We are examining not just these actions, and whether they (P&O) complied with the regulations as they should have done, but also our relationship with the company.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in response to the Archbishop’s intervention: “Ministers and officials have expressed their outrage and frustration at P&O Ferries on their decision and handling of their announcement, and are closely considering the Department’s relationship with the company.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has appeared to suggest that the sacking of 800 P&O staff last week was unlawful.

“We have serious concerns that their handling may not have followed the correct and legal processes, and strongly urge P&O Ferries to pause the changes announced, and speak with workers to repair the damage caused.”

P&O did not respond to telephone calls and emails from this newspaper.

Rishi Sunak refutes ‘freeports’ link

ministers appear to be at loggerheads over the future involvement of Dubai-based DP World – owners of P&O – with the Government’s flagship ‘freeports’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak stressed yesterday that these remain “different things” just six months after being guest of honour at the launch of the London Gateway Freeport.

He said at the time that he was “thrilled that DP World is investing £300m to support Thames Freeport – creating new opportunities, boosting growth and supporting local jobs”.

But the Government says that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps “has instructed a total examination of any contract in place with P&O Ferries and DP World across Government”.

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