P&O Sacks Entire UK Workforce Over Zoom

Top brass of the shipping giant P&O has reportedly made over 800 UK staff redundant over a 13-minute Zoom call, prompting outrage from unions.

P&O Ferries cause a shockwave across the UK yesterday as it announced that all 800 plus of its UK sailing staff were being replaced by sailors from other countries.

The announcement came shortly after 11 am following news that the company had called all its ships into port ahead of a ‘major announcement’. Speculation grew that the business was in trouble and may even be heading for liquidation, despite a spokesperson refuting the claim.

As the news trickled through outrage grew among the staff, the public and a raft of UK MPs, many of whom took to social media to decry the company’s actions and plead with the government to step in and support the newly redundant workers.

It has since emerged that over a quarter of the staff were notified of their termination over a short video call where they were informed that: “The company has decided that going forward the vessels will be primarily crewed by a third-party crew provider. Therefore, I am sorry to inform you that your employment is terminated with immediate effect.”

The company has been heavily criticised for its insensitive approach. With additional reports that staff and crew were escorted off their ships with no prior notice, even passing their cheaper replacements as they disembarked.

The backlash against the company seems to show no signs of abating, with a host of protests planned on Friday across the ports of Dover, Liverpool, Hull and Larne. The RMT union has been extremely vocal in their criticism, saying it was one of the “most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations”. Reports have also surfaced that the UK Government are now reviewing all their freight contracts with the business.

P&O Ferries are standing their ground and said on Thursday that without “making swift and significant changes now” the business would no longer be viable and that is why it has had to take the “tough” decision to lay off 800 workers. A spokesperson said: “We have made a £100m loss year-on-year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.”

P&O Ferries has been and remains one of the UK’s largest ferry companies, carrying over 10 million passengers a year and approximately 15% of all freight cargo in and out of the UK.  The business, like many others in shipping, has seen a significant downturn in bookings since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

P&O is owned by Dubai-based DP World, a multi-national ports and logistics company.  Chairman of DP World Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem has previously described P&O as a “strong, recognisable brand”. But reports of over £100 million in losses has forced the company to take action.

It remains to be seen whether anything can be done either by the company, government or the unions to help the staff, but what is certain is that P&O’s reputation has suffered significant damage from the way it has handled the issue.

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