'It's a disgrace' - enraged protesters call for action on two year anniversary of P&O sackings

  • ITV Meridian's Sarah Saunders reports from Westminster

There were angry scenes outside Parliament today as former P&O staff and unions called for more to be done, two years after hundreds of crew members were sacked - and replaced with cheaper agency staff.

Unions including the TUC and Nautilus joined a demonstration outside Parliament.

The Government insists legislation is on the way to stop anything similar happening again.

But after an ITV investigation found some workers on the Dover to Calais route earn an average of less than £5p/h - critics say the company 'should be penalised'.

Speaking at the demonstration today, director of organising at Nautilus International Martin Gray said: "The government made a commitment through a nine-point plan in March of 2022, and so far they've delivered on none of it.

"We've got a code of practice that's not fit for purpose, that just makes it marginally more expensive for companies to choose to ignore consultation.

"And we've got a Seafarers Wages Act with no legislation that backs it up in regulations."

  • Martin Gray, director of organising at Nautilus International

"The government needs to go far enough to stop bad operators like P&O Ferries from being able to undertake the employment model that they do," he added.

"It's a disgrace that seafarers are being paid as little as £4.85 an hour working on-board ferries that are operating between the UK and France.

"Hundreds of the seafarers that were impacted lived and worked in and around the Dover community - to remove that many jobs from the local market in one fell swoop by the actions of a company is absolutely devastating for families and for everybody else involved.

"786 people lost their jobs in one fell swoop with no notice and no consultation - that's 786 families with no clue as to where the paycheque's coming in from, how they're going to pay the mortgage, how they're going to pay the bills, how they're going to afford to buy food in the supermarkets."

P&O made significant cuts to staff in 2022, saying it was losing £100million year on year, which forced it to make 'swift and significant changes'.

Staff were replaced by agency workers, in a move that unions called 'outrageous'.

Seafarers were given immediate severance notices on Thursday 17 March 2022.

But the RMT are warning another P&O Ferries scandal is on the cards as a result of government inaction.

Members of the TUC, Nautilus and RMT Unions joined the demonstration outside Parliament. Credit: ITV Meridian

Lee Dempsey, senior assistant general secretary of the RMT said: "Two years ago, 800 of our members were sacked via Zoom on vessels, and then some of them were dragged off of those vessels by private security.

"The employers, nothing happened to them, P&O, have still not faced any sanctions or charges.

"The government has done nothing in two years.

"We could have another P&O tomorrow - we still have thousands of seafarers in British waters who are paid below the minimum wage, who don't have any pension provisions, and could face being dismissed in the same way that our members were two years ago."

Hundreds of P&O workers were sacked unexpectedly and replaced with agency staff in March 2022. Credit: ITV Meridian

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal says the Seafarers' Wages Act is making sure that pay conditions are in place to protect seafarers in the same way that people are protected on land.

"There is a new code which DFDS and P&O have agreed to implement, dealing with those welfare and other conditions, to make sure our seafarers are properly looked after," she told ITV Meridian.

"It's absolutely vital that that becomes compulsory, and that's what I want to see, to make sure our seafarers are properly looked after on our cross-Channel route.

"There continue to be discussions with France about making sure that seafarers are properly protected on our cross-Channel route.

"I'm very pleased that progress has been made since the disgraceful episode two years ago, but I support much more happening as well."

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