Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

The news that the Dubai-based owner of P&O Ferries have celebrated record-breaking profits just months after sacking 800 of its UK-based staff without notice, is a “another blow” for workers, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

DP World, which is ultimately owned by the Dubai royal family, said in March that firing 786 P&O seafarers and replacing them with much cheaper agency workers was the only way to ensure the “future viability” of the historic ferry business.

However, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World’s chair and chief executive, recently announced the company had increased its first-half revenues by 60% to $7.9bn (£6.6bn) and profits had risen by more than 50% to a record $721m.

Colin Smyth said: “This is yet another blow for the workers who were unlawfully sacked by P&O earlier this year.

“Workers stood by the firm during the pandemic, keeping sailings going, yet this didn’t stop P&O walking away from them.

“Even though the sackings have dropped off the news agenda, the Trade Unions are continuing the fight with regular blockades and protests. They have my solidarity in fighting these job losses but we know that as a company, P&O clearly have little interest in the welfare of their workforce and had been planning this move for some time, with reports they employed private security firms weeks before to prepare for the announcement back in March.”

The record breaking profits comes at a time when it was revealed that P&O Ferries will not face criminal action over the way it fired its employees.

The Insolvency Service, a government agency, said that, following a “full and robust criminal investigation”, there was “no realistic prospect of a conviction”. A civil investigation is still ongoing.

Colin Smyth added: “It’s shocking that P&O will not face criminal action over its actions.

“What this highlights is how weak our employment protection laws are, and how pathetic the UK Government’s response has been to this betrayal of workers by P&O. For some time Labour have been pressing the UK Government to outlaw the practise of fire and rehire, but they have failed to do that, even though there is growing evidence more and more companies are using this practise in response to the pandemic. The actions of P&O are like something from Victorian times but sadly are entirely legal in the UK under this Tory Government and that simply can’t be right.”

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