Tory MP jeered and told ‘shame on you’ at protest against P&O Ferries sackings

Natalie Elphicke was heckled by union members outside Maritime House in Dover, with others shouting: ‘You voted for fire and rehire’.

18 March 2022

A Tory MP was jeered by angry demonstrators who chanted “shame on you” as she attended a protest against P&O Ferries’ decision to sack 800 seafarers.

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, was heckled by union members outside Maritime House in the Kent town on Friday, with other protesters shouting: “You voted for fire and rehire.”

In October 2021, the Government blocked proposals introduced by a Labour MP to curb businesses’ abilities to lay staff off and take them back on different terms – a practice commonly referred to as ‘fire and rehire’.

Ms Elphicke seemed to join in with demonstrators’ chants as she walked with them to Dover Port, where members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union spoke about the reasons why they decided to protest.

She said she had been talking to the RMT about what could be done about the situation, and nodded her head in agreement with speeches made by members about how they will not stop fighting against the sackings.

Darren Procter, national secretary of the RMT, spoke to a crowd of around 250 demonstrators and vowed: “This is only the start. This is only day one.”

When asked how confident he is about workers getting their jobs back, he said: “We ain’t gonna lose. We ain’t gonna lose.

“We’re going to make sure our workers get back onboard their vessels.”

Crowds of protesters gathered in Dover
Crowds of protesters gathered in Dover on Friday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh also visited the protest in Dover and described the sackings as “nothing short of a national scandal”.

She told the PA news agency: “I wanted to come straight down to Dover to stand with these workers and show my full solidarity.”

She added: “I will be taking action in Parliament next week to push the Government to take sanctions against P&O now, to push leverage on them, to force them to change course and if it’s not illegal … then we need to make sure it is immediately made so.”

The Dover protest was one of several demonstrations at UK ports on Friday, with others taking place in Hull, Liverpool and Larne in Northern Ireland.

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