P&O Ferries refuses plea from Grant Shapps to reverse decision to sack workers

Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite claimed the Transport Secretary’s request ‘ignores the situation’s fundamental and factual realities’.

29 March 2022

The boss of P&O Ferries has insisted he will not reverse the decision to sack nearly 800 seafarers despite being given “one further opportunity” by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite wrote to the Cabinet minister claiming his request “ignores the situation’s fundamental and factual realities”.

Re-employing the sacked workers on their previous wages would “deliberately cause the company’s collapse, resulting in the irretrievable loss of an additional 2,200 jobs”, the letter stated.

“I cannot imagine that you would wish to compel an employer to bring about its own downfall, affecting not hundreds but thousands of families.”

When P&O Ferries announced its decision to replace its crews with cheaper agency workers, it stated that the business needed to cut costs to survive as it was losing £100 million a year.

Mr Hebblethwaite also rejected Mr Shapps’ request that Thursday’s deadline for sacked workers to accept redundancy offers is delayed, as more than 765 of the 786 affected people have “taken steps to accept the settlement offer”.

He wrote: “These are legally binding agreements, and crew members who have entered them will rightly expect us to comply with their terms.”

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