In the UK, P&O Ferries has paused all services and released all its staff, causing major disruption to freight and passenger travel.

P&O Ferries has fired its crew across its entire fleet, while pausing services temporarily. The Guardian reports that these staff will reportedly be replaced by agency workers. Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs in the Commons he was “concerned” about the reports and “will be taking steps later today including ensuring that my officials are having urgent discussions with P&O about the situation”.

When approached by HLPFI, a spokesperson for P&O Ferries, said: “P&O Ferries plays a critical role in keeping trade flowing, supply chains moving, and connecting families and friends across the North and Irish seas and the English Channel. We have been at the heart of this service for years and we are committed to serving these vital routes. 

”However, in its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a GBP100 million (USD132 million) loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries. 

”These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options. As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.  

“In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business, which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK. And we are ensuring that we can continue serving our customers in a way that they have demanded from us for many years.”

HLPFI understands that P&O Ferries has encouraged staff to apply to the agency for work, which the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) described as a ‘fire and rehire’ practice. The association condemned the move, with its general secretary, Manuel Cortes, stating: “This is absolutely despicable behaviour from P&O, designed to reduce pay, and worsen terms and conditions for their staff. They should be ashamed of themselves, treating loyal and hardworking staff like this.

“I’m sending our union’s solidarity to the members of our sister unions being treated in such a despicable way by this dishonorable employer. I am also putting the rest of the ferry sector on notice: TSSA will fight any attempt to replicate P&O’s disgraceful behaviour tooth and nail.”