Myself, Kent County Council leader Cllr Roger Gough and Dover District Council leader Cllr Trevor Bartlett have written to the Chancellor to condemn the actions of P&O Ferries/DP World relating to their mass sacking of workers based on the Dover-Calais line. The Leaders and myself have called on the Chancellor to do everything he can to press P&O Ferries/DP World to reverse their decision, including looking at DP World’s involvement in the Government’s Freeports programme.
In a strongly worded joint letter to the Chancellor (21 March), Cllr Roger Gough, Cllr Trevor Bartlett and myself said:
“As the Leaders of Kent County Council and Dover District Council and the MP for Dover, we strongly share the critical views expressed by Government colleagues on the way that P&O Ferries and their owner DP World handled their redundancies announced last week. We have huge concerns for the impact on the workforce and communities in Dover and more widely across Kent.
We have in Kent a strong record of making Government policies deliver positive benefits both to businesses and our residents. That’s why we are writing to you now to ask you to do everything you can to press P&O Ferries/DP World to reverse their decision and reinstate the Dover workforce. We note in this regard the UK taxpayer and Government support throughout the pandemic as well as DP World’s role in the Freeports programme.”
Expressing concern about the impact on the workforce and communities in Dover and more widely across Kent, the Council Leaders and I proposed a range of measures aimed at offsetting some of the extensive damage caused by P&O Ferries’ decision, noting that these measures will significantly benefit those communities in East Kent that will be hit hard by the loss of these jobs.
The proposals include a proposal to create an extended East Kent Enterprise Zone to cover Manston in Thanet, Discovery Park in Sandwich and the Port of Dover, along with the Whitfield Port Zone, as well as the upgrading of the A2 to be progressed urgently, writing:
“we repeat our request for urgent and accelerated funding of the Ris3 programme Dover Access Road upgrade. This is a vital piece of roads infrastructure that is necessary to secure road resilience, and quality of life for residents across Dover, including those affected by the Dover TAP at Aycliffe, and to secure free-flowing trade for the whole of the UK.
This disruption to traffic will be a further challenge faced by the community, with many reeling from changes and increasing losses in public transport services. We hope that we can work together to unlock the public transport funding and where necessary collaborate through the Employment Task Force to resolve any employment consequences.
This incident is another reminder that these critical communities and economic gateways demand greater investment and that ongoing uncontrolled disruption across our transport network is bad for business and bad for Britain. The time is now to invest and make East Kent the centre of global excellence for border control and operation.”
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, I told the House of Commons that a number of local businesses had come forward to offer jobs and a rapid response team was being made available to support affected workers. I re-iterated the importance of Government support at this time, where I said:
“Ours is an area of great opportunities, and it is vital that we get support from the Government to make the most of all of them.
“Let me say again that what DP World and P&O Ferries have done is a complete disgrace. They should reverse their decision and reinstate the workers. Their behaviour breaks the social contract between employers and employees. They have been rightly condemned across the board in both business and political worlds. The right thing to do, I say again, would be for DP World to immediately reverse its decision and reinstate the workers.
“It is not too late for P&O to come to the table for discussions and do the right thing. For everyone’s sake, including its own, I hope it does so now without delay. Reinstate those jobs in Dover and come to the table and have discussions about the future.”