The UK-registered P&O Ferries made 800 of its staff redundant immediately and suspended all services on Thursday, claiming its current business form was not viable.
Staff were sacked via a pre-recorded video made by a senior P&O staff member on Zoom and are to be replaced by cheaper workers.
“The company has made the decision that its vessels going forward will be primarily crewed by a third party crew provider,” the video said.
“Therefore I am sorry to inform you that this means your employment is terminated with immediate effect on the grounds of redundancy.
“Your final day of employment is today.”
Footage obtained by the BBC shows the moment P&O Ferries staff were informed they had lost their jobs.
— BBC Yorkshire (@BBCLookNorth) March 17, 2022
However the staff did not go down without a fight.
A defiant captain of a P&O Ferries ship locked down his boat and refused to let anyone aboard.
Dutchman Eugene Favier, the captain of The Pride of Hull, sealed his crew of 141 team members inside the vessel using maritime law.
The Daily Mail reported that the crew with captain Favier were joined by hundreds of sacked P&O protestors who refused to disembark ships at ports in Dover, Hull, and Northern Ireland.
The move lead to security guards with handcuffs being deployed onto the ships to remove them.
The sackings caused delays all over British ports, and trade unions made threats of a standoff by urging members to defy instructions to leave P&O ships.
Earlier yesterday, the company told its ferries to dock and offload passengers ahead of a “major announcement,” stirring discussion and jeopardising the travel plans of thousands.
According to the Daily Mail, P&O Ferries is likely to suspend all its services for up to 10 days in the wake of this update.
The ferry group has almost 4,000 employees and operates over 30,000 sailings a year on major routes including between Britain, France, and Ireland. Dubai based company DP World purchased the company in 2019.
Due to COVID, the firm said it has lost £100 million ($178 million) year-on-year, which was covered by DP World.
“This is not sustainable,” a P&O spokesperson told the Australian Financial Review.
“Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.”
UK unions and politicians have accused some companies of using a “fire and rehire” tool that lets them move staff to weaker contracts with lower pay as the company faces financial struggles following the pandemic.
“Unscrupulous employers cannot be given free rein to sack their workforce in secure jobs and replace with agency staff,” the UK Labour Party said in a statement.
It should be noted that P&O Ferries is under DP World and is not currently related to P&O Cruises Australia.
The companies were once under common ownership, but the cruise line and its UK sister company split off in 2000.