Last Thursday, P&O Ferries head Peter Hebblethwaite admitted to a group of UK MPs that the decision to sack 800 seafarers without notice broke UK employment law.
He said that under UK employment law there was no doubt that the firm was required to consult unions before making the mass cuts.
However, he said no union would have accepted the plan and it was easier to compensate workers ‘in full’ instead.
At the meeting, Huw Merriman, the Conservative chair of the Transport Committee urged him to resign.
“It’s untenable to come to parliament and say you decided to break the law, you have no regrets,” Merriman told the BBC. “We can’t have companies run by people like that. So he needs to hand his card in.”
The P&O Ferries seafarers are to be replaced by foreign agency workers paid less than the UK’s minimum wage but within the agreed maritime law wage scale.
Hebblethwaite apologised for the distress caused by the cuts, but said they were necessary to save the business, which had been loss-making, believed to be up to $10 mill per year.
He claimed that workers would receive “extremely generous” compensation, thought to be up to £100,000 for senior shipboard staff, although as part of these settlements they would forgo their right to pursue further legal action against P&O.
Earlier, Maritime Union RMT slammed what it described as a “disgusting statement” from P&O Ferries trying to justify one of the most shameful acts by any employer in recent history
Sacked seafarers have been basically told that if they don’t sign up to be gagged by a non-disclosure agreements they not only lose their jobs but also lose money.
This is from an organisation which has received millions from the taxpayer to support furlough payments and whose parent company DP world paid out vast sums in dividends last year, the union said.
General Secretary, Mick Lynch, said; “These are the actions of a bully trying to maximise profits by sacking workers and replacing them with agency staff below the minimum wage.
“The detail of what the company are imposing is not new. The 2.5 weeks is what we have negotiated in the past with P&O.
“The pay in lieu of notice is not compensation, it is just a payment staff are contractually entitled to as there was no notice given.
“The way that the package has been structured is pure blackmail and threats– that if staff do not sign up and give away their jobs and their legal right to take the company to an employment tribunal they will receive a fraction of the amount put to them.
“The actions of P&O demonstrate the weakness of employment law and protections in the UK. P&O have flagrantly breached the law and abandoned any standards of workplace decency.
“They have ripped away the jobs, careers and pensions of our members and thrown the on the dole with the threat that if they do not sign up and give away their rights, they will lose many thousands of pounds in payments.
“This is totally unacceptable and RMT will continue to campaign for our members to be reinstated at P&O and for better employment laws to protect all British workers,” he concluded.