P&O Ferries employees form blockade in Dover after company axed 800 jobs

Former P&O staff and RMT members block the road leading to the Port of Dover. Credit: PA

P&O Ferries employees were among dozens who gathered in Dover this afternoon, blockading roads into the port.

Organised by the RMT Union, they stood in the road holding banners and signs, calling for P&O to reverse its decision to sack 800 workers.

Police were called to move the protestors from the main road into the port.

Employees who lost their jobs on Thursday (March 17) stood on the road holding banners and flags saying “Stop the P&O jobs carve up”.

WATCH: A video of the Teams call that was played to P&O employees on Thursday. Credit: RMT Union.

It came after buses carrying agency workers hired to replace them appeared to arrive at the Kent port.

An employee, who didn't give ITV Meridian his name, said workers wanted their 'jobs back' not redundancy payments.

Speaking at the protest he told reporters that he woke up after 30 years of working for P&O Ferries to find he'd been sacked.

"Well, I woke up this morning after 30 years of working for the company to find out I have been sacked by zoom, that is what's happened today.

"Well, we are going to have to get political pressure from the MP's, government is going to have to do something, it's 800 british taxpayers why aren't they doing something?

"We've had a meeting with our local MP which was actually very supportive.

'All we want is our jobs back. We shouldn't have been sacked by Zoom or teams."

WATCH: This employee tells ITV Meridian about how staff were told they were sacked.

A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said:

"All affected crew who worked today were notified face-to-face and in-person, on board their vessels. For crew who were rostered off, P&O Ferries made all efforts to notify them personally."

RMT national secretary Darren Procter was at the protest, working with employees who have lost their jobs.

He said the news is 'devastating' and added that people have come to him crying.

"People thought they had a future in the maritime industry," he said.

"We claim to be a maritime nation and we are flourishing as a maritime nation... here is the reality.

"When the politicians and government take their eye off of what is going on in the maritime sector and we now have individuals who have been thrown on the scrapheap.

"The impact this will have on Dover and local business doesn't bear thinking about".

WATCH: RMT national secretary, Darren Procter, spoke to ITV Meridian in Dover.

Dover District Council expressed its concerns at the move by P&O Ferries.

In a statement on its website the council said it was 'deeply concerned' as ferry services have long sustained local jobs and are vital to the local economy.

The council also stressed at no point had it been consulted ahead of today's announcement.

Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, said: “This is a bitter blow for Dover and the wider district.

"Our first thoughts are with those employees affected and their families who’ve been plunged into uncertainty. We’ll do everything that we can to support them at this difficult time.”

In a statement, released on Thursday afternoon, P&O Ferries said: “P&O Ferries plays a critical role in keeping trade flowing, supply chains moving, and connecting families and friends across the North and Irish seas and the English Channel. We have been at the heart of this service for years and we are committed to serving these vital routes.

"However, in its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100m 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.

"In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK. And we are ensuring that we can continue serving our customers in a way that they have demanded from us for many years.”