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10,000 transport workers call for immediate reinstatement of illegally sacked P&O seafarers

news Press Release 29 Mar 2022

29 March 2022, London / Brussels

Over 10,000 transport workers from almost 200 ITF affiliated unions today expressed their outrage at the mass sacking and outsourcing of 800 P&O seafarers through a ‘Global Letter of Protest’ handed over to the global leadership of DP World, the owners of P&O Ferries.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton, who is leading the global unions’ delegation in Dubai, delivered the letter addressed to the CEO of DP World, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem calling for the reinstatement of the sacked seafarers and a commitment to respect workers’ rights and engage with unions across their global operations.

“Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen protests at P&O ports from Dover to Hull, and across Europe from Dublin to Rotterdam in solidarity with these workers,” said Cotton. “Today we took the shock and condemnation of the world’s transport workers and their supporters directly to the global headquarters of DP World.”

In the face of brutal corporate decision making, transport workers and their unions across the world have stood up and are uniting to fight back for justice and respect for the critical role they play in global supply chains.

“Transport employers across the world should watch this dispute carefully,” said Cotton. “This fight that is playing out across the ports of the UK, is not just about the illegal firing of 800 seafarers, but a fight about respect and the future of the rights of seafarers globally. It is not something that the ITF, the ETF, and our affiliates take lightly.”

The staggering admission from P&O CEO Peter Hebblethwaite that the company acted illegally when firing these workers, should be cause for the immediate reinstatement of these workers.

“The fact that despite admitting to their illegality, P&O and its owner DP World, can continue to refuse to reinstate these workers, and even say they’d do it again, should send alarm bells ringing for governments across Europe, but also everywhere DP World operates,” said ETF General Secretary Livia Spera.

“If governments cannot protect their people and hold corporations accountable, it raises serious questions about who is in charge,” she added.

The letter demanded that DP World treat these workers with dignity, respect the laws that protect their rights, and:

  • Urgently convene a meeting with the two unions, Nautilus International and the RMT, together with the UK Government, to rectify the current situation.
  • Guarantee that this will not happen in any other DP World wholly owned subsidiary and that you will uphold your ESG commitment to the principles of the UN Global Compact and behave equitably and show respect to all workers in your supply chain.
  • Commit to social dialogue, respectful industrial relations and to develop a closer relationship with the ITF and our affiliates across all DP World owned subsidiaries that ensures that no worker has to ever endure being sacked via Zoom again.


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About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation is a democratic, affiliate-led federation of transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve workers’ lives, connecting unions and workers from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice of the almost-20 million women and men who move the world.