Stena Line has announced that it will set up additional ferry services between Northern Ireland and Scotland from Tuesday.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the news in the House of Commons, saying the company had “stepped up” after P&O routes were suspended last week and that it would ease pressure on major supermarkets such as Asda and Marks & Spencer.
There was widespread outrage last week after P&O made the sudden announcement that 800 workers had lost their jobs without warning.
Up to 50 workers from Northern Ireland alone are known to have been affected.
The BBC report that Mr Shapps confirmed that if it were found that P&O has violated labor law by failing to provide adequate notice or consultation, it would be “a matter for criminal prosecution and unlimited fines”.
I wrote to P&O Ferries expressing my concern about the treatment of the 800 employees who were laid off yesterday.
I also question the legality of this move and am reviewing P&O Ferries contracts across the government.
The company should sit down with the workers and reconsider this action. pic.twitter.com/bcXVntmwa9
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) March 18, 2022
Northern Ireland’s economy minister has also accused P&O of “tearing up labor regulations”.
P&O has said the company was required to take immediate action to safeguard the company’s future viability and that affected personnel would receive enhanced redundancy packages.
Due to high demand, we have added extra sailings on some of our routes between Great Britain and Ireland:
To and from Belfast and Cairnryan: Sunday 20 March and Monday 21 March at 03:30 am
To and from Belfast and Liverpool: Monday 21 March & Monday 28 March at 10.30am pic.twitter.com/aWId5cmQ99
— Stena Line UKIE (@StenaLineUKIE) March 18, 2022
Mr Shapps told MPs that in both 2020 during the coronavirus and 2021, “HR layoffs were made in numbers greater in 2020 than we saw in last Thursday’s case”.
He added: “However, they have had good consultations about those layoffs and they have been made voluntarily.”
He continued: “It is my understanding that officials have been contacted, a very small number of officials have been contacted, I must say, in the late afternoon by HR management, but they wrote down a readout of that, which I believe the note has been widely circulated, and as mentioned, my concern wasn’t really aroused (until) when I started hearing about this shipping box about how that was being done, because both in 2020 and 2021 there had been voluntary redundancies in a way you would expect.
“It was very disturbing to see the images of personnel being forcibly removed from ferries, underlining a very cynical approach and confrontational nature of the whole operation, not at all what we had seen in those previous two rounds.”