Union says P&O Ferries boss should be jailed over sackings 'to send clear message to employers'

P&O Ferries workers protest following the sackings. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The chief executive of P&O Ferries deserves to be “behind bars” after sacking 800 seafarers, a Scottish trade union president says.

Peter Hebblethwaite has been criticised over the company's decision to replace ferry workers with cheaper agency staff.

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) president Pat Rafferty says sacking the seafarers via Zoom last month was “gutter” and “inhumane”.

Speaking at the union's annual conference in Aberdeen, Mr Rafferty said that the CEO should be jailed to send a clear message to other employers.

Peter Hebblethwaite said the company will ‘fairly compensate for all proven claims’ involving lost or damaged items Credit: House of Commons/PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had called upon P&O Ferries to reverse its decision following the sudden sackings of 800 workers without notice nationwide, but Mr Hebblethwaite rejected this.

He also admitted his company broke the law by failing to consult unions about the redundancies.

P&O Ferries has said a need to cut costs drove the sackings.

Mr Hebblethwaite said re-employing staff on their previous wages would “deliberately cause the company’s collapse, resulting in the irreversible loss of an additional 2,000 jobs”.

Mr Rafferty told union members this week: “There is something seriously wrong with our society when a company CEO like P&O can swan into a Westminster parliamentary committee and openly state that he broke the law – and worse still, he’d do it again.

Pat Rafferty has hit out at the sacking of the P&O workers Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

“What that clearly demonstrates is how useless the law is. There is no deterrent to companies like P&O who are getting away with destroying people’s lives.

“The law needs to change. Peter Hebblethwaite should be struck off the directors register and put behind bars.

“That would send a clear message to employers, act irresponsibly towards workers and face the possibility that you will be jailed.”

Mr Hebblethwaite was also accused of “corporate terrorism” last month as he faced MSPs in Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee.

He told MSPs he had not taken a cut to his £325,000 salary while replacing his staff with agency workers who receive less than minimum wage.

Mr Rafferty, who is also Scottish Secretary of Unite the Union, urged trade union members to boycott P&O Ferries until the dispute had been resolved.

P&O Ferries have declined to comment.