French P&O employees and their union representatives were protesting outside the new terminal at Calais Port yesterday (April 19), in “solidarity” with their 800 UK colleagues who were sacked without notice last month.
Around 80 protestors – some of them employees of rival ferry company DFDS – arrived with banners reading: “Boycott P&O” and “For maritime transports free from social dumping.”
They were supported by unions including the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and Syndicat des marins de la Côte d’Opale.
Philippe Mantez of CGT told BFMTV: “The staff are very worried about their future. They are now asking themselves, 30 days on from the company’s suspension [of cross-Channel sailings] about the future of their jobs.”
“They keep telling us that the resumption [of services] will take place in a few days. However, the new crew is not matching up to the safety standards required by the inspection body.”
The staff are concerned that the practice of social dumping – through which employers opt for cheaper labour than is usually available at their base – will spread through the industry.
“It began with Irish Ferries, it continues with P&O and it could be pursued by DFDS,” Mr Mantez said.
A P&O employee added: “We are completely in the dark. We have no more information than what is being said in the press, mainly the British press, so that is quite anxiety-inducing.”
“For a month now we have been living in uncertainty,” said Thorir Thorisson from the CFDT union.
Services still suspended
P&O services have been suspended on the Channel route since the sackings took place on March 17.
The company Tweeted this morning (April 20): “Services today remain cancelled [between Dover and Calais]. For those with a confirmed P&O Ferries booking to travel today, please arrive at the port for the P&O sailing time booked.
“Once at the port please head to the DFDS booths (Dover) or P&O booths (Calais).”
#PODover #POCalais: Services today remain cancelled. For those with a confirmed P&O Ferries booking to travel today, please arrive at the port for the P&O sailing time booked. Once at the port please head to the DFDS booths (Dover) or P&O booths (Calais)./— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) April 20, 2022
The firm has previously said that services will remain suspended until today at least, but will notify affected passengers if the situation changes.
The ferry suspension is costing the company approximately £1million per day, “to which we can add the £35million of redundancy packages,” said Mr Mantez.
“This plan was justified by the £100million loss which was felt over a year because of Covid. [However], in the end, the management proved to be more harmful than Covid.”