No P&O ferries are currently operating as the firm told its crews to expect a ‘major announcement’ at an unspecified time later today amid reports that it plans to lay off its entire onboard staff.
It is said to be planning to replace them with cheaper agency workers.
The firm, which operates ferries from the UK to Ireland, France and the Netherlands, including regular Dover to Calais trips, has put out a message saying its ferries are “unable to run for the next few hours”.
It has asked customers to nonetheless arrive at port as planned, so as arrangements can be found with an “alternative carrier”.
They should go to DFDS’s check-in booths at port, the firm states in a tweet.
P&O is the main Dover-Calais operator and also runs services from Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin and Scotland to Northern Ireland.
Hull’s Labour MP Karl Turner has shared an internal note to its staff referring to an important change, related to securing the firm’s long-term future.
.@POferries have apparently instructed their crews both ratings and officers to tie up vessel's as they are making a 'major' announcement today. This is troubling for crews and their families. I am in contact with ratings and officer unions regarding this. pic.twitter.com/W2Kh5WNval— Karl Turner MP (@KarlTurnerMP) March 17, 2022
Kent Online has cited a crew member, who asked to remain anonymous, as saying: “As of effect from today all our contracts have been terminated”.
This is also confirmed by officers’ union Nautilus whose general secretary Mark Dickinson said in a statement online: “The news that P&O Ferries is sacking the crew across its entire UK fleet is a betrayal of British workers.
“It is nothing short of scandalous given that this Dubai-owned company received millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money during the pandemic.
“There was no consultation and no notice given by P&O.”
The Connexion has been unable to contact P&O for comment on the claims.
Mr Turner has called P&O’s reported actions “utterly deplorable”. The crew of one ferry, Pride of Hull, are staging a sit-in on the vessel, he reports.
New foreign crew waiting to board the Pride of Hull on King George Dock. @RMTunion sitting in onboard the vessel. They will not be boarding her. We understands that both current officers and ratings are to be sacked. pic.twitter.com/JqJOWNxgDA— Karl Turner MP (@KarlTurnerMP) March 17, 2022
The RMT union said earlier today in a statement it was “deeply disturbed” by the rumours and it had asked its crew members to remain on board ships.
“We are demanding [that] our members across P&O’s UK operations are protected and that the secretary of state intervenes to save UK seafarers from the dole queue.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has stated in the House of Commons that he is “concerned” by the news. “Urgent discussions” would be taking place between officials and P&O, he said.
P&O is said to have been suffering financially due to rising fuel costs as well as the impact of Covid travel regulations and additional post-Brexit formalities.