800 workers were sacked on the spot by P&O Ferries bosses, replaced by cheap overseas labour, on salve wages as low as £1.80-an-hour.
This is the dirtiest example of capitalist thuggery in memory. The entire trade union movement to take concrete, decisive action to reverse this atrocity, win reinstatement, and save jobs and conditions.
If P&O get away with it, who’s next?
Provision of vitally important passenger and freight services should be removed from these slave-labour profiteers and taken into democratic public ownership: nationalised to save jobs, wages, and services.
Sacked by Video!
The mass sackings were announced to staff by video, with a P&O boss (previously one of the Royal Mail’s chief hatchetmen) declaring:
“Going forward, the vessels will be primarily crewed by a third-party provider. Therefore, your employment is terminated with immediate effect, on grounds of redundancy. Your final day of employment is today.”
By video message!
There was absolutely no prior warning of this devastation to crews. Absolutely no discussions, let alone negotiations, with the unions – RMT and Nautilius.
Literally sacked on the spot.
Even the video claim of it being “on grounds of redundancy” is not only a lie, but illegal. Redundancy is where the job disappears, not the person doing it.
Clearly, this is not the case here.
Vanloads of cheap labour crews were lined up at the vessels to replace sacked workers, as hired mercenaries with handcuffs marched in to remove the crews.
When crews rightly refused to leave vessels, the capitalist Mafia P&O bosses threatened removal of all ‘redundancy’ payments unless they surrendered control to super-exploited agency workers lined up outside.
This corporate thuggery was brutally premeditated. Whilst P&O bosses never consulted the unions nor gave workers any notice, they put out a call through Interforce, mobilising security guards to evict crew members and install replacement slave labour.
The document they sent these enforces gives a taste of the methods deployed:
“You have been selected to deploy on a task in Dover that will be fairly high profile… on the 16th you will a day’s training.
“On the 17th you will be dispatched by coach to Dover docks to assist the client in their delivery… the client requires 16 Interforce Officers (handcuffed trained) to support their security teams in the unlikely event of some of their staff becoming challenging.
“Essential, our clients will be informing staff of redundancies and there is a possible risk of backlash… you will need your Interforce uniform including cuffs and utility belt…”
They hired mercenaries to enforce P&O’s capitalist thuggery. If this happened abroad, the Tories would join a chorus of condemnation of dictatorship… unless it was in a country they’re arming to the teeth, like Saudi Arabia!
Here, they have encouraged such outrageous attacks on workers, with physical force, and imposed laws to stop workers defending their rights.
Tory crocodile tears won’t wash. They recently defeated parliamentary attempts to ban “Fire and Rehire”.
Tory Ministers knew P&O’s plans in advance but did nothing to halt them.
Profiteering from Cheap Labour
P&O pathetically try to justify their thuggery by pleading poverty. But P&O is owned by an arm of oil-rich Dubai, DP World, who recently announced 26.3% increase in revenues, and $3.8 billion in profit for 2021. They issued £270 million in dividents to shareholders.
They’re up to their neck in the first of the notorious, tax-dodging Tory freeports, in London.
They’re trampling on workers’ heads to impose cheap labour, to further turbocharge their grotesque profits.
Solidarity Action Urgent!
The entire trade union movement needs to rally round these workers, against corporate savagery by a company granted £33 million in government funding during COVID-19.
Urgent action needs to be mobilised by the union leaderships, particularly in port areas, and through the International Transport Union Federation. Blockades of the ports should be built to stop these slave-labour ships from sailing. Unions should instruct members not to handle P&O operations until the 800 are reinstated without loss of pay – alongside a public boycott of these profiteering pirates.
If that means defiance of anti-union laws, so be it; this accelerating race to the bottom won’t be stopped by pleas for mercy, or polite obedience of vicious laws designed to smash unions and workers’ rights in the first place.
Union appeals should be made to agency staff, with the demand for nationally negoiated union rates of pay and conditions for all, regardless of national origin – not flags of convenience for slave labour!
This grotesque episode highlights the case for booting out the profiteers from passenger ferries and freight, through public ownership of the entire shopping and transport industry, under democratic workers’ control.
The Scottish Socialist Party is in full solidarity with crews fighting back, and will help build action to stop the spread of cheap, super-exploited labour by the profiteering pirates in the shipping industry and beyond.
We stand for People not Profit!