Nautilus demands 800 P&O staff be reinstated

Seafarers union Nautilus International has dismissed an offer of £36.5m in compensation made by P&O Ferries to 800 sacked workers and is calling for them to be given their jobs back. Tony McDonough reports

Norbank, the Liverpool to Dublin cargo ferry in the Mersey. Picture by HowardLiverpool


Seafarers union Nautilus International says the £36.5m compensation package offered to 800 sacked workers amounts is not acceptable and is demanding they be given their jobs back.

P&O, whose routes include Liverpool to Dublin and Dover to Calais, made 800 workers redundant with immediate effect last Thursday. The company insisted the move was necessary to save the business which it claims is haemorrhaging cash.

Since the announcement the company, which is owned by Dubai-based DP World, has faced a barrage of criticism from trade unions, including Nautilus and the RMT, politicians of all parties and senior maritime industry figures including Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke.

On Tuesday afternoon P&O announced it will pay out £36.5m in compensation to the 800 workers and claimed it was the largest ever compensation package in the marine sector. It said some people would receive as much as £170,000.

However, on Tuesday evening Nautilus responded with a strong statement claiming its members had been out under “intense pressure” to accept the payouts. It claimed the company “intends to bully our maritime professionals into signing settlement agreements to buy their silence”.

It also said: “Let’s be clear, this statement is confirmation that P&O Ferries believes that with enough money it has no need to follow the laws of this country or be hindered by ethical business standards despite the glitzy commitment of its parent company in Dubai.”

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson added: “We demand that P&O Ferries engages with the recognised unions, reinstate all staff who were sacked, and discuss our serious safety concerns about how the company now plans to operate the ships.


Mark Dickinson
Mark Dickinson, general secretary of seafarers union, Nautilus International. Picture by Tony McDonough


“Only then will P&O Ferries be able to live up to its heritage, contribute to the achievement of the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy and recover the damage it has done, not only to the nation’s standing, but to its own reputation and a once-proud shipping brand.

“We are pleased to learn today that the Government is still considering pursuing legal action based on the company’s responses tonight and will also be investigating breaches of the National Minimum Wage and the terms of the agency workers’ contracts.”

P&O is continuing to insist it had no choice other than to make the 800 workers redundant. It said: “This has been an incredibly tough decision for the business: to make this choice or face taking the company into administration,” a spokesperson for P&O said.

“This would have meant the loss of 3,000 jobs and the end of P&O Ferries. In making this hard choice, we have guaranteed the future viability of P&O Ferries, avoided large-scale and lengthy disruption, and secured Britain’s trading capacity.”

Wednesday will see further demonstrations against P&O and the Port of Liverpool, Dover, Cairnryan, Dumfries and Galloway and Hull. A further protest will take place in Liverpool on Saturday.

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