Unions are arguing that P&O Ferries' UK crew were easy to fire because their contracts were issued in Jersey as part of P&O’s “offshore employment model”.
They say employing crew in places like Jersey, Guernsey and Singapore is apparently common across the ferry industry and by doing this there are fewer protections for employees.
The company have sacked 800 staff with immediate affect, as it tries to fight for survival. It said it lost £100million year on year, which has forced it to make 'swift and significant changes now'.
It comes as calls are being made for a boycott of the ferry company amid growing anger over the 'scandalous' sacking of 800 workers.
The company announced they will be replaced by agency workers, in a move that unions have called 'outrageous'. Seafarers were given immediate severance notices on the morning of Thursday (17 March.)
Ferry sailings have been suspended 'for the next few days' whilst the transition takes place.
It said it lost £100million year on year, which has forced it to make 'swift and significant changes now' which are 'necessary.'
Demonstrations are being held at ports today (18 March) with unions saying they are receiving massive support for the move to be reversed.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said there should be a widespread public and commercial boycott of the ferry giant until the jobs are reinstated.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and Fire Brigades Union (FBU) joined the criticism of P&O over the way it fired seafarers on Thursday.
The RMT called on the government to demand P&O reverse its decision and hold negotiations with the unions so that jobs and services can be reinstated.
New laws are also needed to protect the long-term future of workers in the UK maritime industry, said the RMT.
Downing Street has warned P&O Ferries that there could be “ramifications” over its decision to sack some 800 seafarers.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government was looking to see if the company’s actions broke the relevant rules.
“We are looking very closely at the actions that this company has taken to see whether they acted within the rules,” the spokesman said.
“Once we have concluded that, we will decide what the ramifications are. Obviously there are a lot of valid questions in relation to existing contracts, etc.
“We are working through exactly the detail of what action the company took. Once we have have come to that conclusion, we will set out any further steps.”
A senior government minister has admitted, however, they are powerless to stop P&O sacking 800 workers without notice and replacing them with agency workers.