The P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite will face MPs questions later today following the firm’s decision to sack 800 seafarers and replace them with cheaper agency workers.
Mr Hebblethwaite will appear before a joint hearing of the transport and business committees after MPs and unions alike questioned the legality of the dismissals, which were issued over a recorded video message without notice.
Yesterday Boris Johnson said it appeared to him that the firm had broken the law.
Speaking during prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson said: “We will not sit by, because under section 194 of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Act of 1992 it looks to me as though the company concerned has broken the law.”
It also emerged yesterday that P&O was able to legally sack 800 staff without informing the government because of a law change brought in by Chris Grayling.
While transport secretary, Mr Grayling amended legislation meant to protect workers to create an exemption where there are mass redundancies on ships registered overseas.
Meanwhile no P&O Ferries vessels are sailing between Dover and Calais.
Rival DFDS says: “Due to the disruption to P&O services currently, we are accepting tourist customers with a vehicle booking until further notice. Please bring your P&O booking details to the DFDS check in desks in Dover & Calais for travel on the next available service.”
Read on for the latest news and developments.
What time will P&O boss face MPs today?
It begins at 9.30am in the Grimond Room of Portcullis House, across the road from the Palace of Westminster. MPs led by committee chair Huw Merriman – an independently minded Conservative – will grill the boss of P&O Ferries, a senior executive of the parent company DP World, union officials and a pair of junior ministers.
The running order:
9.30am: The warm-up act involves two academics and a lawyer: Alan Bogg, professor of Labor Law at the University of Bristol; Jason Chuah, professor of Commercial and Maritime Law at the City Law School; and Andrew Burns QC, barrister at Devereaux Chambers.
10am: A brace of trade union general secretaries: Mick Lynch of the RMT union, representing most of the seafarers, and Mark Dickinson of Nautilus International, who represents officers.
10.30am: Background on the maritime and financial insolvency worlds from Katy Ware, director of UK Maritime Services; Brian Johnson, chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency; and Dean Beale, chief executive of the Insolvency Service.
11am: The main event: Peter Hebblethwaite, chief executive of P&O Ferries, who has not spoken publicly since the redundancies; and Jesper Kristensen, chief operations officer at DP World, the parent company.
11.45am: The government strikes back, with junior transport minister Robert Courts and junior business minister Paul Scully.
They will be joined by two top civil servants: John Connell, deputy director for Maritime Operations at the Department for Transport; and Michael Warren, Director of Labor Markets at the Department for Business.
simon calder24 March 2022 09:26
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Lucy Thackray24 March 2022 09:20
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.