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Fears of major job losses as P&O Ferries suspends sailings for several days

The ferry operator said in an internal statement it is set to make ‘a major announcement’.

17 March 2022

P&O Ferries has suspended sailings “for the next few days” amid speculation it is preparing to sack hundreds of workers.

The ferry operator said in an internal statement it will make “a major announcement” which will “secure the long-term viability of P&O Ferries”.

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch said there is “growing speculation that the company are today planning to sack hundreds of UK seafarers and replace them with foreign labour”.

RMT members currently on board ships have been instructed by the union not to leave.

A crew member, who wished to remain anonymous, told KentOnline: “As of effect from today, all our contracts have been terminated and we’ve all been made redundant.”

Hull Labour MP Karl Turner posted a photograph of a coach which he stated contained “new foreign crew waiting to board the Pride of Hull” at the city’s King George Dock.

RMT members are “sitting in onboard the vessel”, so the new crew “will not be boarding her”, he wrote.

He added: “We understand that both current officers and ratings are to be sacked.”

In its internal statement, P&O Ferries said: “All our vessels have been asked to discharge their passengers and cargo and standby for further instructions.

“This means we’re expecting all our ports to experience serious disruption today.”

The company wrote on Twitter: “P&O Ferries services are unable to run for the next few days.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons he is “concerned” by the situation.

He said: “I understand they have temporarily paused their operations and that’s causing disruption at the short straits – Calais-Dover – as well as some other ports.

“I’m working with the Kent Resilience Forum and I’ve just instructed them to become intricately involved, and other partners in this, and we’ll be taking steps later today – including ensuring that my officials will be having urgent discussions with P&O about the situation, particularly of concern for their workers.”

P&O Ferries, which transports passengers and freight, has nearly 4,000 employees.

It operates four routes: Dover to Calais; Hull to Rotterdam; Liverpool to Dublin; and Cairnryan, Scotland, to Larne, Northern Ireland.

Sailings between Hull and Zeebrugge, Belgium, were axed in January 2021.

The firm was bought by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World for £322 million in 2019.

DP World was criticised for paying a £270 million dividend to shareholders at the end of April 2020 while P&O Ferries proposed to cut around 1,100 jobs as demand for travel collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ferry operator sought a £150 million bailout from the Government, but no offer was made.

P&O began operating ferries in the 1960s.

Cruise line P&O Cruises is unaffected by the developments as it is a separate business owned by Carnival UK.

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