On 17 March 2022, P&O Ferries management in the United Kingdom immediately dismissed 800 workers over Zoom. An apparent cost-saving move, the sacked seafarers were told over a pre-recorded video that their jobs would be replaced with cheaper agency labour. Predicting resistance, outsourced security guards–some reportedly wearing balaclavas and equipped with handcuffs–escorted workers attempting to sit-in away from their ships.
The British trade union movement and Labour Party opposition has responded with firm condemnation, with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Nautilus International vowing to fight the ‘jobs massacre’ through both legal procedure and protest. Internationally, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) joined transport unions around the globe in issuing a statement of solidarity, calling for immediate intervention to reverse the sackings.
In a sign of how unpopular the decision is in the UK, the Conservative government has even been forced to condemn P&O’s behaviour, with transport minister Robert Courts telling Parliament he was “extremely concerned and frankly angry at the way workers have been treated by P&O” and Downing Street officials describing the tactics used as ‘completely unacceptable’.
P&O is owned by Dubai-based DP World, an alleged tax dodger. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic they have benefited significantly from the support of the British government, receiving £33 million in subsidies. DP World has been at the forefront of lobbying the British government to establish so-called ‘free ports’ where standard customs, planning and tax measures will not apply. It is a vision of a future which CICTAR works tirelessly to prevent, one where worker’s rights and conditions are brutally undercut and corporations avoid all obligations to contribute to society.
This vision became a reality for the 800 men and women who lost their jobs on 17 March. We stand in solidarity with them and their unions in the struggle to resist P&O’s mass firing. DP World and other multinationals rely on essential public services like the rest of us. They must be made to pay fair wages, provide safe and secure working conditions, and pay taxes like the rest of us.