P&O sackings ‘absolutely outrageous’, union boss tells MPs

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, said the ferry operator is guilty of ‘flagrant breaches of the law’.

24 March 2022

The decision by P&O Ferries to sack 800 seafarers without notice was “absolutely outrageous”, a union boss has said.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), told MPs that P&O Ferries “made flagrant breaches of the law”.

Giving evidence to a joint session of the transport and business select committees, Mr Lynch said: “They’ve done it deliberately and they’ve factored in what they’re going to have to pay for it.”

He said the company is “threatening and blackmailing” its former employees, telling them they must sign a document or “you’ll potentially get no award whatsoever, and you have to give up all of your legal rights”.

He added: “This is absolutely outrageous.”

Mr Lynch described UK employment law as “a shambles”.

He went on: “The politicians and the lawyers in this country have watched over the last 30 years, while not only workers have been made vulnerable, but our merchant marine has been decimated and destroyed.

“If this goes the way it’s likely to go from what I’ve seen, we won’t have a merchant navy in this country.

P&O Ferries vessel
P&O Ferries sacked 800 seafarers last week (PA)

“There will be no ratings working in British ports. British ships will cease to exist, and British ratings will cease to exist.

“That’s what P&O are aiming to achieve, to kill our merchant marine and to kill our employment laws, and something’s got to be done about it today.”

Andrew Burns QC, barrister at Devereaux Chambers, told MPs “all employers with ships must give a notice to the appropriate authority 45 days before dismissal”.

He continued: “My understanding from what I’ve been told this morning is that the notice was given to the appropriate authorities in the countries where the ships are flagged only on the day of the dismissals and not in advance.”

That “appears to be a breach” of employment law, and “it may be that (P&O Ferries) are liable to a prosecution”, he said.

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