A P&O Ferries spokesman has confirmed that around 1,100 jobs are to go on the company’s Hull and Dover routes.
The company said that it planned to make the business “viable and sustainable”.
“Since the beginning of the crisis, P&O Ferries has been working with its stakeholders to address the impact of the loss of the passenger business. It is now clear that right-sizing the business is necessary to create a viable and sustainable P&O Ferries to get through Covid-19.
“Regrettably, therefore, due to the reduced number of vessels we are operating and the ongoing downturn in business, we are beginning consultation proceedings with a proposal to make around 1,100 of our colleagues redundant,” he said.
Responding to the news, RMT’s General Secretary, Mick Cash, said,“This is devastating news and an appalling betrayal of the P&O work force. This is a kick in the teeth for P&O seafarers who have maintained key supply lines to the UK during the Covid -19 pandemic.
“What is utterly shameful is P&O have been kept afloat by our members and the taxpayer whilst their owners have been paying out hundreds of millions in dividends in Dubai and cooking up plans to permanently replace UK seafarers with low cost seafarers from thousands of miles away.
“This is an attack on British seafarers, crew and the biggest fear is that these jobs will never return to Dover or Hull. But you can guarantee that P&O ferries will still be running passenger ferry services from those ports to protect their owner’s profits at the country’s expense.
“We are seeking urgent talks with the company and will fight tooth and nail against these job losses and we are calling on the government to step in now and nationalise these services to protect jobs and the UK’s maritime interests.”
Earlier, UK ferries union RMT had called upon the UK Government to nationalise P&O Ferries.
Meanwhile, the ITF has warned that Covid-19 cannot be used as an excuse to lower seafarers’ wages and working conditions.
Seafarers are vital employees as they keep the global supply chains moving, the ITF said. Seafarers, including those on ferries, transport around 90 percent of the world’s goods, including necessary medical supplies, equipment, products and passengers.
During this pandemic, seafarers continue to work to ensure vital goods and passengers are transported, selflessly and in spite of the risks of contracting Covid-19. Despite the vital role that seafarers play, some companies are seeking to use the pandemic to undermine national standards in the industry, including replacing existing crews with seafarers on international terms and conditions that are substantially lower than national conditions, the ITF claimed.
The pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for shipowners, managers or crewing agencies to dismiss their obligation to protect local jobs, local conditions or health, safety and economic standards in an industry for any work – especially for key workers, including seafarers. Regardless of the nationality of a seafarer, they deserve the national terms and conditions applicable in national trade.
In the UK, multiple companies, including Condor Ferries, Stena Line and P&O Ferries, have laid off seafarers, and forced seafarers to choose between taking unpaid leave or being furloughed. This is putting a serious economic strain on the seafarers and their livelihoods. Further, companies are using the pandemic to undermine long existing collective bargaining agreements, which is totally unacceptable, the ITF said.
In Canada, BC Ferries has cast aside its collective agreement to unjustly lay-off workers, operating on routes with less crew. BC Ferries later partly reversed this decision after pressure from the union representing the seafarers, but the company continues to disregard the collective agreement.
“National Governments must play a necessary role in ensuring market downturns, due to Covid-19, do not turn into unfair redundancies for seafarers or undercut current wages. Now more than ever, critical trade routes that deliver essential supplies should be crewed with national seafarers. To use this pandemic as an opportunity to further erode conditions on ferry routes is opportunism at its worst,” said James Given, President of Seafarers International Union of Canada and Chair of the ITF Cabotage Taskforce.
Companies who receive government funds have an obligation to ensure jobs for national seafarers since those funds are taxpayers’ money. Further, national governments must place conditions on employers who receive public funds that they must protect the wages of furloughed seafarers, including the preservation of existing and pre-existing terms and conditions of employment, the ITF stressed.