P&O Ferries, the global shipping company co-founded in the 19th century by Shetlander Arthur Anderson, is facing condemnation after sacking its entire 800 strong UK workforce and, reportedly, intending to replace it with agency staff.
The company, now owned by Dubai-based DP World, provided essential lifeline ferry services for Orkney and Shetland until 2002.
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael labelled the move as “an attack on seafarers’ rights”, while other political parties also protested in the strongest possible terms.
He said: “Today’s underhanded action by P&O is an attack on seafarers’ rights. It is an absolute outrage.
“We have fought too long and hard over the years to defend basic standards of pay and treatment for P&O to simply wave away hundreds of workers in this manner.”
— Tom Morton (@thebeatcroft) March 17, 2022
In a video call to staff, P&O management said it had been a “tough decision” to make all staff redundant in order the save the business.
Some staff have attempted to resist the mass sackings, and according to the RMT union private security officers have been sent to one ship docked at Larne harbour in Northern Ireland to remove crews remaining on board.
Carmichael added: “The government must step in to prevent this unreasonable behaviour from a company that has been intrinsically linked to UK marine transport for almost two centuries.
“If the current owners cannot manage this company properly then the government needs to consider how a more responsible owner can be brought in.
“Make no mistake: if such unwarranted action is allowed to stand, then the conditions of UK seafarers – including the many workers who still join the merchant navy from the isles – risk being critically undermined.”
He added: “Arthur Anderson was one of the co-founders of P&O. He was a proud Shetlander and a radical Liberal MP for the isles.
“Anderson was an advocate both for islanders and for sailors in his time – we can only imagine what he would have made of this disgraceful action today by the company he founded.”
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