LONDON (AP) — The Dubai government-owned ferry operator at the center of a bitter labor dispute in Britain says it did not break the law by firing 786 crew members without notice because ‘they all worked on vessels registered outside the UK
P&O Ferries also acknowledged in a letter dated Wednesday that the way the layoffs were carried out caused distress to workers and said it had offered “generous compensation” to those involved.
But the company also said it could not have survived without “fundamentally changing crewing arrangements” and took action to save another 2,200 jobs. The laid-off sailors are replaced by less expensive workers employed by a third-party crew supplier.
“Restructuring our workforce in this way was not a course we always wanted to take as an organisation,” chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite said in a letter to government ministers. “We did this as a last resort and only after fully considering all other options.”
The letter came in response to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s request for further information amid worker outrage and allegations that P&O breached UK labor laws. Kwarteng said last week it appeared the company had failed to follow the required procedure to lay off large numbers of workers and informed her that failure to do so was a criminal offense that could result in a fine. unlimited.
The National Union of Railway, Maritime and Transport Workers reacted angrily to P&O’s letter, saying the ‘disgusting statement’ sought to justify the company’s ‘disgraceful acts’.
P&O said the laid-off crew members worked on eight ships registered in the Bahamas, Bermuda and Cyprus. They were employed by three P&O units incorporated in Jersey, a self-governing Crown dependency which is not part of the UK.
Crew members employed by two other subsidiaries based in France and the Netherlands were not made redundant, P&O said.
P&O informed the authorities of the countries where the ships are registered in advance of the layoffs, Hebblethwaite said. Accordingly, P&O does not believe it breached UK law.
“The very clear legal obligation … was for each company to inform the competent authority of the state where the vessel is registered,” he said.
P&O has announced that it will pay workers 13 weeks’ pay to compensate for the lack of notice, and another 13 weeks’ pay in lieu of the consultation. Additionally, P&O says terminated crew members will receive 2½ weeks pay for each year of service, instead of the legally required 1½ weeks.
About 575 of the laid-off workers have accepted severance pay, P&O said.
But the RMT union said the package amounted to ‘blackmail and threats’ as workers will only receive a fraction of the payment unless they waive their legal right to sue in the labor court .
‘They have ripped off our members’ jobs, careers and pensions and thrown them out of work with the threat that if they don’t sign up and waive their rights they will lose many thousands of pounds in payments’ , said General Secretary Mick Lynch. said in a statement.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.