5.9k Share this
A P&O Ferries recruitment video has emerged to reveal a hollow promise made by the company to interested applicants four months ago, which had the tagline: ‘It’s not just a job, it’s a career…It’s family.’
The clip was shared just four months ago by Stephen Nee, its ’employee relations’ chief – who yesterday sacked close to a third of P&O’s workforce in a Zoom call without notice or consultation, to be replaced by agency staff.
Around 800 workers – from captains to check-in staff, engine room staff and cleaners – slammed P&O for ‘scheming behind closed doors before stabbing us all in the back’. In the video, Mr Nee said: ‘I am sorry to inform you that your employment is terminated with immediate effect. Your final day of employment is today.’
Mr Nee was quoting a careers advert on LinkedIn by P&O Ferries, which said the company has ‘our eyes on how we are changing’ and that employers were ‘talking about how they want to do things differently’ after the pandemic.
The full advert said: ‘As we emerge out of pandemic employers are talking about how they want to do things differently. At P&O Ferries we are looking to the future, we may be a company that is 185 years old but we also have our eyes on how we are changing.
‘Being proud of our heritage and embracing our transformation, we are driving the change for the future of ferry travel. If you want to be join [sic] an organisation that is redefining what ferry travel should look like then check out our jobs.’
It comes as Prince William was today urged to cut ties with the owner of P&O Ferries as the company was condemned for sacking 800 seafarers with no notice and replacing them with cheaper agency workers.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a relationship with Dubai-based logistics firm DP World, which bought P&O in 2019 and is a founding partner of the Earthshot Prize – an environmental competition run by the couple.
William met and spoke with DP World’s chief executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum last month, during a visit to the United Arab Emirates for the Expo2020 Dubai event.
A P&O Ferries recruitment video has emerged to reveal a hollow promise made by the company to interested applicants four months ago, which had the tagline: ‘It’s not just a job, it’s a career…It’s family.’ The clip was posted just four months ago by Stephen Nee, its ’employee relations’ chief – who yesterday sacked close to a third of P&O’s workforce in a Zoom call
DP World is also a member of the Transport Taskforce of William’s United for Wildlife umbrella organisation, which was founded eight years ago with the aim of tackling the illegal global trade in items such as ivory and rhino horn.
The company last month announced £1million to be divided equally between two Earthshot Prize innovations whose creators pitched their ideas about a coral farming process and coastal defence panels at Expo2020.
And Norman Baker, the former transport minister, told MailOnline this morning: ‘The very shabby behaviour by DP World is not only a disgraceful way to treat their loyal workforce but must also be an acute embarrassment for Prince William, with the company being a major supporter of the Prince’s Earthshot prize to the tune of £1million.
‘Prince William should without delay use his influence with his friend Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the company’s chief executive, to get them to reverse their appalling action. If they won’t, he should cut all ties with DP World.’
Mr Baker added: ‘The £1million could be used to give £1,250 to each sacked employee. What is clear is that William cannot simply do nothing. He did not create this situation but he has to respond to it.’
William Hague, DP World chief executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and Prince William at Expo2020 in Dubai on February 10
Prince William speaks with DP World’s chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum at Expo2020 in Dubai on February 10
DP World, which made profits of over £1billion last year, is the one of the world’s biggest port operators with 78 sites, and is majority-owned by the Dubai Sovereign Wealth Fund and therefore by the Dubai royal family.
As for Mr Bin Sulayem, he is a childhood friend of the Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and his tenure has made him a multi-millionaire several times over, with annual pay packets of more than £5million.
Just this week, speaking of DP World, Mr Bin Sulayem said that ‘everything we have achieved started with the ideas of our people’. The Dubai owners had already drawn harsh criticism for cutting more than 1,000 staff during the pandemic while seeking bailouts. In May 2020, the firm warned that around 1,100 workers could lose their jobs.
This was weeks after it emerged that it had begged the Government for a £150million emergency bailout to avoid collapse, saying it ‘doesn’t make sense’ to divert cash from its businesses abroad. It also spent about £30million on a sponsorship deal with the Formula 1 racing team, Renault, which became the ‘Renault DP World F1 Team’.
The firm has been criticised for failing to plug a £146million deficit in the P&O Ferries pension fund for retirees, despite spending £147million to sponsor the European Golf Tour, giving its name to the ‘DP World Tour’.
Lorries queue for the Port of Dover this morning after P&O Ferries handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices
The P&O Pride of Kent and the Pride of Canterbury at Dover today amid claims that they may not leave for another 10 days
Security also appear to be guarding the gangplank on to the moored P&O Spirit of Britain ferry at the Port of Dover today
DP also took £10million from the Treasury to furlough 1,100 staff. Yesterday, MPs told the House of Commons that P&O Ferries was ‘leeching’ off the taxpayer and the Treasury had been ‘taken for fools’.
What can passengers do if their P&O journey has now been disrupted?
The sacking of hundreds of seafarers by P&O Ferries has led to the suspension of ferry services between the UK and parts of Europe including Ireland. Announcing the decision, the ferry operator insisted the decision to cut jobs was ‘very difficult but necessary’ as it was ‘not a viable business’ in its current state. But what does it mean for those who need to travel on the ferries?
– Why did this happen?
P&O blamed the sacking of 800 workers on losses of £100million following the slump in travel because of the pandemic. Politicians have denounced the move and trade unions have called for wider public support for demonstrations in Dover, Liverpool and Hull today.
– Which services are affected?
The firm said early today that all its ferries are ‘unable to run for the next few days’, with services impacted including Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin, and from Cairnryan, Scotland, to Larne, Northern Ireland.
– Does that mean I cannot travel?
Not necessarily. P&O said despite its ferries being unavailable, ‘where possible we are organising travel via an alternative operator’. The company added: ‘Space is very limited so we suggest if your journey is not essential, please do not travel today.’
Travellers at the ports of Dover and Calais were instructed by P&O to make their way to the check-in booths for Danish firm DFDS. There were no such instructions for those at Hull, Rotterdam, Liverpool, Dublin, Cairnryan or Larne.
– Are there implications for freight?
Northern Ireland Economy Minister Gordon Lyons noted more than half of the nation’s freight moves through Larne port, with the MLA adding the move ‘will also cause supply problems for companies and supermarkets in Northern Ireland, as well as those firms based here who sell to GB’. His Stormont colleague Nichola Mallon called on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to ‘take every possible step to save jobs and to maintain connectivity for passengers and freight on Irish Sea routes’.
– What are my rights as a passenger?
Travel trade organisation Abta says customers should be informed as soon as possible when an operator expects a departure to be cancelled. If this is on the day of travel, you should be informed no later than 30 minutes after your scheduled time of departure.
Free snacks, meals and refreshments should be provided if your ferry is expected to be cancelled, Abta advises, but this need only take place if meals are available or can be reasonably supplied.
Abta says a ferry operator should offer the choice of an alternative or a refund if a service is cancelled and the operator should offer free accommodation if an overnight stay becomes necessary because of the cancellation.
Accommodation may be provided on board the ferry or ashore, while the ferry operator is also free to look at other options including asking the passenger to go home or make their own arrangements and be reimbursed for the expenses. The ferry operator may limit accommodation costs to £66 per night per passenger for a maximum of three nights, Abta says.
– What does P&O say?
The company’s terms and conditions on delayed or cancelled sailings state: ‘We will seek to provide you, your luggage and vehicle with the journey as booked although ferries, sailing times/dates and destinations may be affected by weather conditions, port closures, industrial disputes or changed by other operational requirements.’
‘If your departure is delayed and your journey will no longer serve any purpose, having regard to your original travel plan, a refund of the full ticket price shall be considered upon submission of reasonable supporting evidence,’ the conditions add.
– What compensation is available?
Abta advises travellers are entitled to compensation of 25 per cent of their ticket price, for that part of the affected journey, if your service is delayed for at least one hour for a journey of duration four hours, two hours for a journey of duration between four and eight hours, three hours for a journey of duration between eight and 24 hours or six hours for a journey of duration of over 24 hours.
DP World’s board members include Robert Woods, 73, a former chief executive of P&O, an honorary captain of the Royal Naval Reserve and a director of the Chamber of Shipping in the UK.
Mark Russell, another non-executive director, is the vice-chair of UK Government Investments, having recently stepped down as its chief executive. UKGI is a body which advises on government corporate finance matters.
Mr Russell, 61, has a £145,000-a-year role as a non-executive director of DP World, and also earns £150,000 a year for three days a week in non-executive military procurement role as Defence Equipment & Support chairman.
P&O has had three chief executives in three years, and since November has been run by Peter Hebblethwaite.
The company told passengers sailings will be suspended ‘for the next few days’, and safety fears have been raised over the decision to sack the 800 seafarers with no notice.
Trade union Nautilus International, which represents some of those fired, urged the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to ‘make sure the ships are safe’ as the new crews are ‘unfamiliar’ with the vessels and routes.
The union’s general secretary Mark Dickinson said it was ‘an intensely worrying situation’ as sailing ships across the Channel is ‘like walking across a six-lane motorway at rush hour’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There are serious safety concerns, which is why the company cannot reintroduce services with the lower-paid agency crew that they’ve recruited via this company called International Ferry Management of Malta.’
Mr Dickinson said the MCA must be ‘absolutely clear and confident that those new crew, unfamiliar with the vessels, unfamiliar with the routes, with the berths’ can operate the ships safely.
He added: ‘We’ve written to the Maritime Coastguard Agency and we hope and we pray that they will do their job.’
Mr Dickinson also said the decision by P&O to sack 800 workers without notice was ‘a dark day in the shipping industry’, adding: ‘I’ve been in this game for over 40 years and I’ve seen some curveballs and some shocking developments over that time, but this is a new low for a shipping company. To treat the due legal process in such an underhand and callous way has shocked me, taken my breath away.’
He added that his union was ‘actively progressing’ preparations for legal action against P&O Ferries alongside the RMT union.
He said: ‘The company is duty bound to consult … with the trade unions. We have collective bargaining agreements for all the affected seafarers, all the vessels on all the routes. We’ve worked with this company for decades through difficult times and through the good times. This is clearly illegal.’
Peter Aylott, director of policy at the UK Chamber of Shipping, which represents the industry, told Today he was ‘very confident that P&O will have put procedures in place to ensure that the individuals that are going to be in control of those vessels will be familiar with the ships, familiar with the systems and will be competent and qualified to operate those vessels in a safe manner’.
He also said P&O Ferries had ‘no option but to do something’, adding: ‘The company was valued effectively in 2019 at £350 million. It’s been losing £100 million a year through the pandemic, caused by an event that obviously they had no control of. Clearly something had to be done.
‘I can’t possibly comment on the conduct of what was done, but I can comment on the fact that 2,200 people’s jobs have been saved, otherwise the company probably would have ended up, I imagine, in liquidation, but of course that’s a bit of speculation. What I want to be very clear on is that the company had no option but to do something.’
But a minister said the Government is unable to prevent P&O sacking rgw 800 seafarers and replacing them with cheaper agency staff.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the company had behaved ‘disgracefully’ but acknowledged the Government was powerless to stop it.
‘I think that is the reality,’ he told BBC Breakfast. ‘The Government anger will mean very little to those who have been sacked. I do feel very sorry for those people.
‘I do think P&O have behaved disgracefully and I wish that P&O had given the Government and the unions more opportunity to engage with them to try to save those jobs.
‘Ultimately, it is not something the Government can stop P&O from doing. Now the focus will be on supporting those who have lost their jobs.’
Demonstrations are planned at ports in Dover, Liverpool and Hull as unions and politicians condemned the mass dismissal, blamed by the company on losses of £100million following the slump in travel due to the pandemic.
The P&O Pride of Kent (centre) and the Pride of Canterbury (left) at Dover today, along with the Spirit of Britain (right)
Men on the bridge of the P&O Spirit of Britain in Dover today as P&O try to replace staff with cheaper agency workers
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said it was seeking legal advice to challenge the sackings.
Before suspending sailings, P&O Ferries operated four routes: Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin, and Cairnryan, Scotland, to Larne, Northern Ireland.
It advised those already at Dover and Calais to make their way to the check-in booths for Danish firm DFDS, but there were no such instructions for those at Hull, Rotterdam, Liverpool, Dublin, Cairnryan or Larne.
A P&O spokesman said yesterday: ‘We have made a £100 million loss year-on-year, which has been covered by our parent, DP World.
‘This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.’
DP World and Kensington Palace have both been contacted for comment.
Source: Daily Mail