P&O Ferries has provoked a storm of protest after suddenly making 800 seafaring staff redundant and suspending all UK services.
The UK-based ferry operator, which is owned by Dubai-based logistics company DP World, announced it was issuing severance notices to 800 staff on Thursday (17 March) and blamed its £100 million financial loss for the move.
P&O Ferries said that it would not be able to run ferry services for the “next few days”, amid reports that current staff will be replaced by cheaper overseas workers.
Travellers with bookings have been told to use alternative ferry operators and to make their way to DFDS’s check-in booths.
A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said: “In its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100 million loss year-on-year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable.
“Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.
“These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options.
“As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.”
The RMT union, which represents many of the affected workers, has called for its members to remain on their ships.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We are seeking urgent legal action and are again calling for the government to take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations.”
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA), added: “We are deeply disturbed about the news of mass firing at P&O ferries. This disregard for important roles in the travel sector will have a devastating impact on business travel at a crucial time for recovery.
“Our thoughts are with P&O employees during this uncertain time. The BTA will work with all relevant bodies to support impacted employees in the coming weeks.”
UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said he was “very concerned” about the announcement from P&O Ferries.
“We will be speaking to the company today to understand the impact on workers and passengers,” he said in a tweet.
“Important to note other operators continue to run cross-Channel routes, so passengers and goods can flow, but I am working with the Kent Resilience Forum to minimise disruption.”