The Green Party Trade Union Group expresses our disgust at the dismissal on Thursday of approximately 800 seafarers by P&O Ferries. We stand in solidarity with the workers and their union, RMT.
The decision by P&O bosses, taken secretly and communicated to the workers remotely and with no notice, is a shameful example of an unscrupulous practice that has become all too common in modern Britain.
That the company was able even to contemplate this action testifies to the rank insufficiency of the UK’s workers’ rights protections. Such actions should not be possible.
P&O’s actions clearly fly in the face of employment law, disregarding the consultation period among other requirements.
The episode has also revealed the extent to which the UK’s economy facilitates and encourages tyrannical management practices. P&O’s parent company, DP World, has paid huge dividends to shareholders in the past two years. It availed itself of the UK’s furlough scheme to sustain itself through the pandemic. Its owners have spent over £140m on a golf competition alone, while depriving the P&O staff pension scheme of a similar amount.
Now, the company is pleading poverty and claiming this decision is ‘necessary’ for P&O to survive. This claim is utterly without basis and below contempt.
No worker should have to suffer such dreadful treatment. In place of the sacked employees P&O now seeks to exploit a new group of workers, who on the grounds of their status as migrant agency staff will be denied fair pay and conditions. We resist any attempt to make this issue about so-called “British jobs” or “foreign workers”: workers of all nations will only win real security and dignity by uniting and refusing to be divided by borders. Fraternisation and organisation with potential agency workers is essential, to ensure they do not cross pickets and replace union workers.
We applaud the decision of the workers, supported by the RMT, to sit-in on their vessels and refuse to accept the company’s decision. We call on the wider labour movement to meet the RMT’s requests for mobilisation in support of the workers at P&O, and call on fellow Green Party members to offer their support in turn.
Finally, we call on the UK government to take urgent action to protect each job and prevent any detriment to the workers involved. The UK should be prepared to nationalise P&O Ferries, without compensation, and reform the company to hand workers greater power over their working conditions.