Protests over sacking of hundreds of P&O workers as calls grow for boss to quit

  • ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery reports on the P&O protests that took place across the UK

Protests are taking place at UK ports over the sacking of hundreds of seafarers, as calls grow for a P&O Ferries boss to quit.

On Saturday, protesters were gathering in Liverpool, Dover and Hull as the RMT union urged a stop to the “P&O Jobs Massacre”. People chanted “P&O, shame on you” as they marched along a street in Liverpool, with more than 100 turning out, according to the union.

In Dover there were similar scenes as crowds carried banners and placards calling for an end to the “P&O jobs carve up”.

Meanwhile, Irish trade union workers gathered at Dublin Port outside the P&O terminal to send support from across the Irish Sea to P&O staff.

Irish trade union workers during a rally at Dublin Port outside the P&O terminal. Credit: PA

The demonstrations come after a ship operated by the ferry firm was detained for being “unfit to sail”.

The European Causeway vessel has been held at the port of Larne in Northern Ireland due to “failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training”, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he will not compromise the safety of P&O vessels and insisted that the company will not be able to rush training for inexperienced people.

The P&O Ferries operated European Causeway vessel in dock at the Port of Larne, Co Antrim. Credit: PA

As ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills notes, P&O executives are likely to be worried as seven of its eight ships remain stuck in port, ten days after they fired crews.

"P&O fought dirty. The government is hinting it is willing to fight dirty too," he wrote on Twitter. "Those ships could be stuck for some time."

The MCA has said there were no passengers or freight on board the European Causeway vessel when it was detained.

"The vessel will remain under detention until all these issues are resolved by P&O Ferries. Only then will it be reinspected," a spokesperson added.

The detention of ships is based on concerns over their safety and to prevent them going to sea. A P&O Ferries spokesman said: “ We shall review the findings, make any changes required and continue to work closely with the MCA to return the ship to service.”

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) tweeted a video they said showed P&O dockers in Rotterdam refusing to load freight onto a ferry set for Hull “in solidarity with the 800 seafarers illegally sacked by P&O”. Labour, meanwhile, has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asking whether the government will seek the removal of P&O Ferries’ chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite as a director under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

In a letter, the party accused the government of “sitting on their hands” rather than taking action to hold P&O to account, adding that the “toothless response risks giving the green light to exploitation”.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said the “shameful misconduct of P&O Ferries has ruined livelihoods” as she called for the sacked workers to be reinstated and for Mr Hebblethwaite to be “barred” as a director for his role in the crisis. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed calls for Mr Hebblethwaite to quit.