Shadow Pensions Minister Matt Rodda said it was ‘absolutely appalling’ that the owners seem to have ‘spent money owed to hard-working employees on sponsoring a golf tournament’
Image: P&O Ferries)
The billionaire owners of P&O Ferries stand accused of shortchanging retired staff after splashing out millions sponsoring an elite golf contest while ignoring calls to fund the firm’s pension pot.
The Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund (MNRPF), for P&O retirees, has a staggering £146m deficit, but multinational logistics firm DP World has so far failed to stump up the cash.
It now faces claims it is “more concerned about corporate PR” after the 2022 European Golf Tour was renamed the DP World tour, with the company putting up £147m in prize money.
P&O Ferries cut around 1,000 staff during the pandemic, while seeking Covid bailouts.
DP World is one of the globe’s biggest port operators. It is majority-owned by the Dubai Sovereign Wealth Fund and, therefore, ultimately by the Dubai Royal Family.
The company declined to comment but did not dispute the figures.
It said the firm has paid the pension pot nearly £80m since 2016 and insists the remaining costs are secured by a guarantee over two ships.
There are fears taxpayers could lose out if the sum £146m deficit isn’t met, however, as a number of government entities are part of the pension scheme, including the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (now part of the Royal Navy).
DP World’s profits reportedly soared by 52% in the first half of 2021, according to a statement by the firm, with revenues also up 21% to $4.95 billion, from $4.0 billion in the year earlier period.
In 2020, £270m was paid out to DP World shareholders.
The UK government has also awarded the company two free ports – Solent and London Gateway – meaning the company could benefit from tax breaks from the UK, despite the firm failing to pay what it owes the P&O pension fund.
Labour has called on ministers to intervene but the government has said only the Pensions Regulator has the power to act.
Shadow Pensions Minister Matt Rodda said: “It is absolutely appalling that DP World seems to have spent money owed to hard-working employees on sponsoring a golf tournament.
“I am deeply disappointed that the company and the wider group seem to be more concerned about corporate PR than looking after retired staff who gave years of loyal service.
“It is simply not good enough that the Government has allowed DP World to break pension promises. The Government must urgently review this situation.”
Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT union, has also hit out at the company.
He said: “It’s absolutely essential that the MNRPF Trustees secure all of the cash due from these wealthy employers to secure the pensions promised to our Merchant Navy Ratings.
“P&O cannot sponsor golf tours and fatten their profits while they have outstanding bills to our pensioners. It’s about time they did their duty and paid up.”
A spokesman for P&O said: “P&O Ferries is fully committed to meeting its share of the liabilities in this fund. To that end, we have paid the MNRPF nearly £80m since 2016.
“Furthermore, the outstanding deficits are secured by a guarantee over two of our ships.”
The Pensions Regulator said it does not comment on individual cases.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.