P&O workers sacked over Zoom call were ‘given five minutes to get off ship’

A woman has blasted P&O Ferries bosses after her husband and son were made redundant today, claiming the travel company has behaved “highly immoral” and been “insulting” towards staff.

Some 800 workers were told via a Zoom call their contracts were terminated due to losses of more than £200 million in two years.

Staff were said to have been told at 11am and according to an anonymous source were given “five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ship”.

Addressing all affected workers via a video call in a scripted announcement, a company boss said the business had lost around £100m per year over the last two years.

The UK Government are holding "urgent discussions" with P&O Ferries
The UK Government are holding “urgent discussions” with P&O Ferries

The firm cancelled all services this morning leaving passengers stranded at Dover in Kent and Calais.

One woman, who does not want to be named, has a husband and son who lost their jobs on Dover ferries overnight.

She said: “When P&O suspended sailings this morning, crews were waiting on the ships with no idea what was happening – even the captains didn’t know.

“Then pictures emerged of three coach loads of foreign workers waiting at ports to take their jobs. They were already wearing P&O uniforms – yet the staff still hadn’t been told they were being let go.

“They were told they had five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ships. These guys are week on week off workers who have called these ships home for half of the year every year.

“They have personal effects in lockers which they can’t get to – clothes, bedding, photographs and in some cases financial documents which will be taken out and thrown.

“My son is an apprentice. With 350 people competing for jobs at sea, they’re unlikely to be able to find a ferry company to take them on to finish their apprenticeships. Their coursework is on the ships waiting to be thrown out. It’s highly immoral and another insult from P&O to East Kent.”

It is understood security teams were on-hand as staff left their posts – with replacement teams of agency workers waiting for them on the dockside.

One source said, “16 handcuff-trained security people” were involved. The company employs around 4,000 staff nationwide.

A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: “P&O Ferries plays a critical role in keeping trade flowing, supply chains moving, and connecting families and friends across the North and Irish seas and the English Channel.

“We have been at the heart of this service for years and we are committed to serving these vital routes.

“However, in its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100m loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World.

“This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.

Staff were said to have been told at 11am and were given “five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ship”
Staff were said to have been told at 11am and were given “five minutes to get their stuff and get off the ship”

“These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options.

“As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.

“In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK. And we are ensuring that we can continue serving our customers in a way that they have demanded from us for many years.”

All its cross-Channel services were cancelled this morning at short notice with travellers being diverted to alternative operators.

The company had told staff to expect “serious disruption” at all of its ports today because of the suspension of services.

In addition to its cross-Channel routes, it also operates services between Hull and Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin and Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne, Northern Ireland. All of its routes were suspended ahead of the announcement.

P&O is owned by DP World, a Dubai-based logistics giant, that bought the ferry company for £322m in 2019.

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