More jobs at risk after P&O layoffs, second ferry company warns of ‘race to the bottom’



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The massive layoffs of hundreds of HR workers have sparked a ‘race to the bottom’ among ferry companies as a second company may also consider laying off its crew and replacing them with cheaper temps. It means that if Boris Johnson fails to reverse P&O’s shocking layoff of 800 employees, thousands of British jobs could be at stake, union leaders say.

It came when the ferry operator DFDS, which employs 2,700 crew, lorry drivers and office workers in the UK, told Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, it would be unable to compete if P&O paid wages of just £5.50. per year. hours were not challenged and destroyed. According to The Mirror, the Danish company has demanded a “level playing field” to avoid having to lay off staff in the UK for its services across the channel and to attract foreign workers at rates well below the minimum wage.

A spokesman for the company, which operates ferry services from Dover, Newhaven and Newcastle, said: “DFDS has written to the Foreign Secretary requesting a meeting to discuss how to achieve a level playing field on the Channel for a operator like DFDS , whose crew model directly employs British seafarers.” They declined to comment on the possible implications for the staff or the contents of the letter.



RMT union secretary Mick Lynch speaks on Saturday during the protest against the dismissal of P&O employees

But Mick Lynch, leader of the RMT Rail, Maritime and Transport union, expressed concern about the future of the UK’s £8 billion industry. He said: “P&O has started a race to the bottom on our ships. And the government’s nagging about P&O’s illegal act threatens more competitive jobs and disaster for British seafarers. We want assurances from ministers that the government is taking steps to preserve member jobs, collective bargaining and UK registration on the DFDS fleet.”

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister labeled P&O’s actions as illegal. And Mr Shapps said the government would “make sure that P&O turns around”. But there were doubts about the power ministers had in enforcing the layoffs because the workers were registered abroad. Both Mr Johnson and Mr Shapps have also called on Peter Hebblethwaite, the shamed P&O chief, to resign after admitting the company had deliberately broken the law. He told shocked MPs in a joint select committee that the company had no other option to survive.

DFDS provides services from Dover, Newhaven and Newcastle to Amsterdam, Calais, Dunkirk and Dieppe. An industry insider said one option being considered by the company would be to scrap the short-distance model of employment currently used on Channel Crossings for a less restrictive international shipping regime where employing cheaper temporary staff was the norm. .

Last night Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary said: “P&O has created a blueprint for rogue employers to cut wages and the Tories have done nothing to stop them.” The Department of Transport declined to comment beyond Mr Shapps’ promise to take action.

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