Business

‘It came down to morals’: Agency worker refuses to board P&O ferry over sacking of 800 staff

P&O Ferries has restarted a limited service two days after sacking 800 crew members without notice in what it says is a cost-cutting exercise.

The Dubai-owned travel firm said the Liverpool to Dublin ferry set sail on Saturday morning and has now resumed a normal service.

The company’s other ships are still tied up as the political fallout continues over its shock announcement on Thursday that cheaper agency workers would replace the sacked staff.

It’s led to one maritime union to call for the company to lose its licences to operate in British waters, after government ministers lined up to criticise the decision and Downing Street warned of potential “ramifications”.

Read more: P&O Ferries defends ‘last resort’ decision to sack 800 staff on the spot

A Hull man recruited via an agency advert on Facebook has shared pictures with Sky News of security staff hired to escort him onto the European Highlander at Cairnryan in Scotland

Mark Canet-Baldwin said he and more than a dozen others were not told what ship they would be working on and met the security workers in a supermarket car park.

More on P&o

“Here’s 10 guys [with] handcuffs and balaclava type hats and black masks, and I thought: ‘What’s going on here?'” he said.

He said he was not told he would be replacing sacked workers and ultimately refused to board the ship.

“It came down to ethics and morals and principles, and I thought I don’t want to start a mutiny here, but I just said guys I can’t do this, this is wrong, we’re taking those people’s jobs.”

P&O said it had resumed one of its services crossing the Irish Sea today.

An update on the company’s Twitter feed said: “We have now resumed services between #POLiverpool & #PODublin. For booking information please visit our website.”

Other routes remain suspended or cancelled.

Read more: Couple dismissed after 31 years of combined service say they were marched off ship ‘like criminals’

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P&O sackings were ‘shoddy’

Maritime union Nautilus International has urged Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to revoke P&O Ferries’ licences in British waters.

In a letter published on Twitter, general secretary Mark Dickinson called on Mr Shapps to “hold P&O to account” in six ways, including pursuing “any legal option available” over how P&O handled the mass redundancies.

Mr Shapps wrote to Peter Hebblethwaite, chief executive of P&O, on Friday and said he was “questioning the legality of this move” and reviewing P&O Ferries’ contracts.

A spokesman for P&O Ferries said earlier this week: “We took this difficult decision as a last resort and only after full consideration of all other options but, ultimately, we concluded that the business wouldn’t survive without fundamentally changed crewing arrangements, which in turn would inevitably result in redundancies.”

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