Claims that Balaclava-clad security are filmed boarding boat as P&O workers sacked without notice

UTV News has obtained footage of security boarding a boat to remove staff made redundant.

This is the moment P&O ferry workers were escorted off a boat by security guards reportedly wearing balaclavas, after being told they had been sacked.

The workers in Larne have lost their jobs in what Northern Ireland leaders branded a "shameless" move by the owners of P&O Ferries.

"There’s a guy leading that lot dressed in security wearing a balaclava. What is this like," one man can be heard to exclaim in the footage.

"This is outrageous, it’s outrageous," a second man replies, as the footage captures P&O security men in yellow high-vis jackets being escorted by extra guards in dark clothing. 

In a statement on Friday, P&O ferries denied that any security staff were wearing balaclavas, and claimed that secuirty, "were totally professional in handling this difficult task with all appropriate sensitivity."Sailings were suddenly suspended and staff were told they were being made redundant with immediate effect across the UK on Thursday morning

Passengers were turned away from the the Larne to Cairnryan crossing connecting Northern Ireland and Scotland, as sailings were suspended across the UK.

The company has now publicly confirmed it has provided 800 seafarers with "immediate severance notices," explaining that P&O Ferries is no longer a viable business.

Staff across the UK learned they were losing their jobs in a Teams video call, in which they were told "your final day of employment is today".

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

In the call provided to ITV News, they are promised a generous redundancy offer that exceeded the legal minimum.

Local political leaders branded the job cuts "scandalous," as they questioned the future of the key Northern to Scotland ferry route.

Mid and East Antrim deputy Mayor Matthew Armstrong, who works in the transport industry, said:"Government - including council - now needs to step up to the plate and seek to do what we can to deliver who have been treated so shamefully by their employer.”

ITV News understands the company told staff they were being made redundant, and P&O is set to use an agency to keep their ferries running - with current staff able to apply to the agency for work.

A former employee leaves the Port of Larne Credit: Pacemaker

Concerns were raised across the country, as the company operates routes from Dover, Tilbury, Hull and Teesport to France, as well as routes from Liverpool to Dublin.

Earlier, MLAs shared their concerns, describing the reports of the sailing suspensions as "disturbing."

East Antrim MLA John Stewart said: “ The staff need to be told what is going on and whether P&O have any long or short term commitment to Larne.

“There has been an obvious decline in services and routes at the port of Larne for many years, but the short crossing to Cairnyran has always been busy and is a strategically important freight link to Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Given this, the Economy Minister needs to get directly involved right now.”

Former P&O staff leave Larne port Credit: Pacemaker

His constituency counterpart, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, said: “My first thought is with the workers who have been informed by P&O they are no longer employed and I hope they get the support needed at this difficult time.

“I am deeply disappointed in how P&O have handled this entire episode, showing underhanded behaviour which is not acceptable at best and draconian measures to remove staff at worst. There appears to have been no consultation done with staff or unions over this move.

“Given P&O owns Larne Harbour, urgent questions now need asked as to the potentially vast impact locally. I am calling on the Department for the Economy to engage immediately with P&O over the future of the harbour and any potential ramifications for it.”

East Antrim TUV Assembly candidate Norman Boyd called the company's move an "absolutely scandalous betrayal of British workers.

“Everything about this this shameful. Neither staff nor customers had any notice of what was taking place with people hearing that something was afoot by way of the media rather than any announcement by the company.

“There is an urgent need for the government, at national level, to put in place legislation which prevents staff being treated in such a shabby fashion”.

The Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon MLA, has expressed her "shock" at the actions by P&O Ferries as she said she was concerned at the impact locally.

The Minister said: "This is a developing situation and officials are working on a cross-departmental basis to assess any local impacts, especially for supply chains, and are keeping in close contact with their counterparts in the Department of Transport in London. "With the Economy Minister I am calling on the Secretary of State for Transport to take every possible step to save jobs and to maintain connectivity for passengers and freight on Irish Sea routes."

A P&O ferry is halted in Larne on Thursday morning as all services were suspended. Credit: Pacemaker

A P&O Ferries spokesperson issued a statement on Thursday afternoon following the suspensions. The statement reads: “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.” 

"This means we're expecting all our ports to experience serious disruption today so please bear with us and we will give further information in an all-colleague announcement later today.

"If you're in a customer facing role further information will follow separately on how we would like you to work with our customers.

"Thank you for your patience and support."

In a statement earlier the company said it was '"not going into liquidation".

A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said: “P&O Ferries is not going into liquidation. We have asked all ships to come alongside, in preparation for a company announcement.

"Until then, services from P&O will not be running and we are advising travellers of alternative arrangements.”

P&O issued a statement on Friday addressing reports about the dress and behaviour of security staff.

“The teams escorting the seafarers off our vessels were totally professional in handling this difficult task with all appropriate sensitivity.

“Contrary to rumours, none of our people wore balaclavas nor were they directed to use handcuffs nor force.”

  • HELPLINE: Affected workers will be able to call the Labour Relations Agency from Friday morning on 033 00 555 300. Advisers will be available to give information and advice.