Good morning and welcome to our ongoing coverage of the world economy, financial markets, the eurozone and the economy.
P&O Ferries is facing widespread outrage and the prospect of legal action after the company surprisingly fired 800 seafarers in a video call yesterday.
Passenger and cargo shipping routes could be disrupted for at least a week after the group fired its workers, whom it plans to replace with cheaper agency workers in a brutal mass layoff.
Mark Dickinsonthe general secretary of the seafarers’ union nautilus Internationalsays the layoff “tore everyone’s guts out.”
He told Radio 4’s Today Program
It’s a dark day in the shipping industry.
I’ve been in this game for over 40 years and have seen some curve balls and some shocking developments in that time, but this is a new low.
This is a new low for a shipping company, to treat due process of justice in such a sneaky and callous manner, shocked me and took my breath away.
dickinson says Nautilus and the RMT union are “actively pursuing” their legal response to the “clearly illegal” move.
The company has a duty to consult and consult with unions. We have collective agreements for all ships on all routes.
We have worked for this company for decades, through difficult times and good times.
This is clearly illegal.
P&O Ferries yesterday said it was not a profitable business in its current state as it was making a loss of £100m on a year-on-year basis.
Dickinson says he recognizes the difficulties the company has faced, particularly over the past two years. But it’s wrong to take it out on the crew – some of whom have spent their entire working lives with P&O Ferries.
To treat you like this is an absolute disgrace.
Yesterday politicians from both sides called on the government to take action to stop what Labor and unions called a “scandalous betrayal”.
Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said the P&O Ferries redundancies, including the use of “handcuffed security guards, some wearing balaclavas, the marching off of British crews from their ships” were “acts of thugs”.
Employment lawyers have also warned P&O of violating several laws.
Employers are required by law to consult workers before firing them, and those who wish to make more than 100 layoffs must give the business secretary at least 45 days’ notice.
P&O could be hit with wrongful dismissal lawsuits, like Tom LongPartner in a law firm Shakespeare Martineauexplained:
“If employees are made redundant, they can bring an action for protection against dismissal before the labor court, with the maximum severance payment being up to one year’s salary in most cases. If they were not given notice or a statutory severance payment, they could also be entitled to those payments. If P&O failed to conduct proper collective consultation prior to the layoffs, the unions could bring a lawsuit over that failure, with a potential award of up to 90 gross daily wages per employee affected if the lawsuit were successful.”
“It appears that P&O will offer employees ‘extended severance packages’ to compensate them for their layoffs, but whether this offer will be enough to prevent significant litigation remains to be seen.”
Also arrives today
Russia’s central bank sets interest rates today – last month it doubled rates to 20% after the invasion of Ukraine led to sanctions and financial chaos.
- 10:00 GMT: Euro-zone trade balance for January
- 10:30 a.m.: Bank of Russia interest rate decision
- Noon GMT: RMT demonstration against P&O looting in Dover and Hull
- 1pm GMT: RMT demonstration against P&O layoffs in Liverpool