P&O Ferries sacking 800 staff – What happened next?
Earlier this year P&O Ferries caused public outrage when they sacked nearly 800 seafarers by a pre-recorded video message without notice. The workers were then replaced with foreign agency workers, some of who were to be paid less than £5.50 an hour (falling far below the UK’s National Minimum Wage (NMW)).
We reported on the P&O situation earlier in the year, click here for the article.
Under Section 193 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA), UK employers are required to give the government 45 days’ notice of any intention to make 100 or more workers redundant. However, P&O were able to rely on section 193A of TULRCA (added as a legislative amendment in 2018) which required notification to be given to the nation state where the ship is registered. For P&O with its ships being domiciled outside of the UK, it allowed them to take advantage of the legislative loophole.
At that time, the then Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, asked the Insolvency Service to carry out an urgent enquiry to examine whether the law had been broken. P&O were subject to criminal and civil investigations for their handling of the dismissals and disregard of redundancy legislation.
Disappointingly however, it has recently been reported that P&O will not face criminal action over the firing of its staff despite a thorough investigation by the Insolvency Service as it was considered that there was “no realistic prospect of a conviction.” The criminal penalty for non-compliance with the duty to notify the Secretary of State under section 194 does not apply to ships registered outside the UK.
The previous UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the former Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, had drawn up a nine-point response to P&O in an attempt to get them to reconsider their decision and to afford greater protection to maritime workers. Within this response, was a plan to ensure that ferry companies pay the NMW to seafarers. Unfortunately, these proposals have so far not been enacted, having been described as “unworkable” by The UK Ports Industry.
Jas Dubb, Associate Solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership comments: “It is disappointing that after the initial outrage and promise to hold P&O accountable that no criminal prosecution will take place. However, it is reported that a civil investigation led by the Insolvency Service remains in progress and it is widely hoped by members of the public, politicians and unions that P&O will be held answerable for their actions.”
To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Jas Dubb on 0121 710 5929 or via email at [email protected]. You can also contact any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 or email us at [email protected]