Yesterday’s announcement that 1,100 jobs at P&O are to go is a disaster for Dover and our wider area. Many of our those same seafarers now facing losing their jobs have been vital in keeping key supply lines running during COVID-19, often at increased personal risk for themselves and their families. The government must step in and not allow the sacking of existing staff, likely on some routes in the UK to be replaced with cheaper foreign crew, without the same employment benefits, sick pay entitlements, or leave allowances. If we allow workers to be treated like this, it will begin a race to the bottom for workers’ rights. In order to protect jobs and to protect the benefits and entitlements of retained crew, whilst securing the future of Britain’s maritime workforce, the government must nationalise P&O.
I am calling on the local MP and bosses at the Port of Dover to join my call for the government to step in and prevent this local economic disaster. We, on the Kent coast, are very proud of our excellent crew, high Maritime safety standards and seafarer heritage. So many people I speak to are in agreement that it is just plain wrong that the British taxpayer has been paying the furlough salaries of many crew members whilst at the same time the big bosses at the Dubai-based company that owns the company are paying millions out in dividends to foreign shareholders.
Some people have been calling only for a £150 million bailout to help save P&O, but this does not go far enough. Why would the British government put millions more in to a foreign-owned company that in the future will continue to pay dividends to wealthy individuals abroad and likely come back in a post-COVID era to once again threaten the job security of existing British employees? Again, some people are saying that they would be asking for ‘commitments’ or ‘conditions’ in return for a bailout. Again, this is not good enough; this would end up in court, causing more expense for taxpayers here. A key company such as P&O, fully nationalised and back in the hands of the British government will ensure that all revenue is retained by the same taxpayers that would fund any bailout and will secure fair employment on the Dover-Calais and Hull-Rotterdam crossings.