Standing up for P&O workers and for Dover

P&O’s mass sacking of ferry workers and their proposed replacement by agency contractors is a body blow to our community. This is devastating news for the P&O workers who are affected – as well as their families.

Be in no doubt – this is shameful corporate behaviour for which P&O’s owner, Dubai’s DP World, must be held accountable. It is an insult to the decades of loyalty and hard work shown by Dover’s workforce.

This announcement was also a u-turn on solemn assurances given to me and the RMT Union over the last two years. DP World should rethink their behaviour and reverse this decision.

In recent days, I have spoken with many Government Ministers pressing for the Government to do all in its power to bring pressure to bear on DP World to reverse this decision. In response, No 10 have roundly condemned the sackings, the Department for Business are considering action on breaches of the law and Transport Ministers are reviewing all Government dealings with DP World and P&O Ferries. I hope that DP World will take heed and reverse their decision.

This isn’t so-called ‘fire and re-hire’, it is simply bad business behaviour. It is a violation of the principal that businesses should treat their employees fairly and with respect. That cannot be tolerated and it is right that the Government has taken a firm position to condemn what DP World and P&O Ferries has done.

It’s vital that the impacted workers are supported. I have asked employment ministers to take immediate action to support workers who are impacted. In addition, I am working closely with the leadership of Dover District and Kent County Councils to do everything possible to see that the maximum possible support is provided. I also continue to work closely with the unions.

The appalling mishandling and mistreatment of P&O’s workers also threatens to cause problems on Kent roads and wider harm to the UK economy as a whole. I have been working with the Police and the Kent Resilience Forum to see that any such disruption is kept to a minimum. I am clear that DP World should be held to account if there are any problems on the roads.

What DP World and P&O Ferries have done is a complete disgrace. Their behaviour breaks the social contract between employers and employees. They have rightly been condemned across the board. The right thing to do would be for DP World to immediately reverse this decision and reinstate the workers.

Our community has given decades of loyal support to P&O. Our country has given millions of pounds of support in furlough and other pandemic assistance. It’s not too late for P&O to come to the table for discussions and do the right thing. For everyone’s sake, including their own, I hope they now do so.

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