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Unions demand change to end fire and rehire

Noticias Nota de prensa 01 Apr 2022

Joint press release from ITF, ETF, Nautilus International & RMT 

Last night, ITF, ETF, Nautilus International and RMT projected a video on to the cliffs of Dover and images on to the headquarters of P&O Ferries, demanding that the company be brought to task for its immoral and illegal actions. 

This action comes after P&O Ferries sacked 800 seafarers two weeks ago. One Zoom call, 30 minutes notice, and 800 lives, 800 families, 800 homes, communities have been changed forever. 

The video features footage of P&O Ferries CEO, Peter Hebblethwaite, brazenly telling MPs that P&O Ferries had broken the law by failing to consult unions, and his shocking admission that “I would make this decision again”. 

The actions taken by the UK Government so far are simply not enough. P&O Ferries has set a dangerous precedent that a company can flagrantly flout the laws of this country and go unpunished. Government needs to act, and if the laws don’t protect us, the laws must change.

Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson, featured in the video, said: “Some of our members have given their lives to this company, 40 years, they don’t want to lose their jobs. Government must now deliver on the fair ferries framework agreement developed with unions and industry as this would ensure such actions by rogue ferry operators can never happen again.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Last night’s stunt signals the start of our Fair Ferries campaign. We want to establish collective agreements in the maritime sector as the minimum employment standard on international ferry routes from UK ports. 

“The Government must introduce legislation to ban fire and rehire as the current laws allow employers to get away with the most appalling employment practices. This is how we will prevent grave injustices like P&O Ferries from happening again.”

General secretary of the ITF Steve Cotton said: “This battle is about respect. Respect for working men and women. My message to all transport workers, and all workers in the UK, is that unless we act this could happen to you. We must make the UK Government fix these broken laws so this never happens again.”

General secretary of the ETF Livia Spera said: “This is not just about these 800 seafarers, this is about an immoral move by P&O Ferries, that’s simply not acceptable. It sets a dangerous precedent that we cannot let stand, the laws must change.” 

President of the ITF Paddy Crumlin said: “Dockers, and maritime workers worldwide, have no tolerance for this failure in governance and cynical behaviour. It's clear what needs to be done, it's time Prime Minister Johnson outlawed fire and re-hire and put an end this form of corporate bastardry." 

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady also featured saying “Every worker deserves decent treatment at work.”

Without immediate action, the P&O Ferries sackings will be a template for employers across the country to ruthlessly fire workers and replace them with cheaper, more easily exploitable labour. Government must act to prevent another P&O Ferries’ style jobs massacre.

Demand change now: 

Media can download the footage and images of the projections under the following licence - Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Click to view, download and use the:

Notes for editors

Peter Hebblethwaite, CEO of P&O Ferries, comments about ITF recognising the crewing management company to the ‘Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee’ of The Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 29 March 2022, is false.

He said that: “The crewing management company will have recognition with ITF.”

The ITF does not recognise any crewing company. The ITF recognises agreements that our affiliated unions negotiate with companies.

Mr Hebblethwaite also said to the ‘Transport Committee and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’ of the UK Parliament, Thursday 24 March 2022, that:

“The rates that we are playing are in line or above ITF minimum standards, and it is the operating model that the vast majority of operators across the globe work to. So this is the competitive standard.”

This is also false. There are no ITF minimum standards in the European ferry trades. Mr. Hebblethwaite is potentially confusing ITF international standards for freight vessels with ITF policy for European ferries.

In European ferry traffic, according to the ITF Athens Policy, ferries trading between European countries, the crews shall be covered by the national conditions in the countries concerned. For example, if a ferry travels between the UK and France, it shall have either UK or French national conditions onboard, irrespective of the flag of the vessel and the nationality of the crew. If those conditions vary a lot between the countries concerned, the policy states that the highest shall be used.