Yvonne Fovargue MP: Workers betrayed in national scandal
The way in which P&O has handled this has also been shocking: the seafarers were told the news on a pre-recorded video and marched off their ships by security staff.
I believe it is scandalous that this company, which received millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money during the pandemic has, without consultation or notice, upended the lives of 800 British workers, all while the profits of the owners, DP World, soared by 52% in the first half of 2021. The Government needs to provide a clear, unequivocal statement that an overseas conglomerate cannot be given free rein to sack workers in secure jobs here in Britain at the click of a button and replace them with agency staff. It must act now to secure the livelihoods of these workers, not signpost them to the Department for Work and Pensions.
I believe the Government should review every contract and licence it has with P&O or DP World, to maximise leverage and force them to do the right thing. It should also convene urgent talks with P&O and the unions to look immediately at what steps can be taken to safeguard these jobs. In addition, it should act more widely to outlaw fire and rehire without delay.
As I pen this column, Labour will table an emergency motion in Parliament. This follows the shocking news that a leaked letter has revealed Ministers were aware of the scandalous action by P&O before the workforce were told.
The practice of fire and rehire is not a new one. Worryingly, though, it seems to have become increasingly common during the pandemic, with some companies taking advantage of the crisis to exploit workers. We have seen several major employers threatening to sack staff unless they agree to worse pay, terms, and conditions. The TUC has found that nearly one in ten workers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since March 2020.
The use of this appalling practice will continue to spread so long as the Government refuses to ban it. We therefore need urgent legislation, not further delay. If the Government was serious about stopping the use of fire and rehire it would have used the opportunity provided by the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill to end this pernicious practice. Unfortunately, it chose not to do so last year. I will continue to support efforts to press the Government on this issue and put a stop to this unethical and exploitative practice.
Britain is proud of its sailors. The Government must stand up, speak out and take action to protect the livelihoods of these proud workers.
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