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ITF : Unions to DP World: call time on costly P&O mess, sack Hebblethwaite

Union leaders from across the globe have descended on the London offices of the Dubai-based owner of P&O Ferries, DP World. More than 50 leaders from transport unions assembled to condemn the company’s treatment of the P&O Ferries’ workers, and to urge DP World to start living up to its own values.

“News of the illegal mass sacking of P&O Ferries’ seafarers has spread to TVs and phone screens the world over. The disgraceful and callous actions of P&O leadership, signed off by DP World, falls foul of responsible business practices and principles, and DP World’s own standards,” said ITF President and ITF Dockers’ Section chair Paddy Crumlin.

“When DP World signed up to the United Nations Global Compact in 2019, the company pledged itself to uphold the UNGC’s 10 principles, including those on labour, in all of the sectors and markets that it operates.”

“By allowing its P&O Ferries’ management to sack a unionised workforce en-masse with no consultation, DP World has clearly broken its pledge to uphold ‘freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining’ of 800 of its employees.”

“This is nothing short of a global governance failure by DP World’s leadership. P&O Ferries’ conduct raised serious questions about DP World’s promise to implement the UNGC’s principles to ‘create a better future for everyone. There are 800 seafarers right now asking where their better future is.”

Former P&O staff and RMT members block the road leading to the Port of Dover as P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notice

Crumlin said P&O Ferries’ “vehement anti-union position” was not sustainable for owner DP World, ethically or financially.

“It’s now time for DP World executives from Dubai to step in and fix this mess. It’s time for P&O Ferries’s CEO to go. It’s time for them to speak to us,” said Crumlin. “We represent hundreds of dockworkers’ unions. We have a presence in most of DP World’s ports. We want the company to talk to us about fixing this fiasco, and to be frank – to do what is in their own best interests.”

P&O Ferries’ has reportedly racked up at least £80 million in costs since its illegal sacking of the unionized seafarers.

Former P&O staff and RMT members block the road leading to the Port of Dover as P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices.

ETF General President Frank Moreels, who also spoke at the rally, said “We support Nautilus International and the RMT in their call for the UK government to introduce a ‘fair ferries agreement’ with decent pay and safety standards aboard ferries that operate between the UK and mainland Europe.”

“The case of P&O Ferries shows that operators must be required to work in a meaningful way with social partners, including unions. This will help to ensure that seafarers cannot be treated in such a shameful way again and that safety standards are maintained aboard our ferries for the safety of crew and passengers alike,” said Moreels.

David Heindel | ITF Global

ITF Seafarers’ Section chair David Heindel, the Treasurer-Secretary of the US-based Seafarers International Union, told the crowd: “DP World has really let the seafaring industry down. We are looking from across the Atlantic, and asking ourselves ‘Why would they shoot themselves in the foot like this?’. Multiple vessels arrested, with insurance costs going through the roof, no doubt.”

“This is the biggest maritime failure we’ve seen in a long time. My advice to DP World would be: to cut your losses. Talk to the unions. Find a solution,” said Heindel.

The leaders said DP World must commit to working with the federation and its affiliates across all DP World-owned subsidiaries to ensure ‘that no worker in their global operations is ever treated with such disrespect again.

P&O stock image

  • In 2019, DP World’s CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem’s signed the company up to the United Nations Global Compact’s 10 Principles, which can be found here.
  • Earlier this week two ITF inspectors were refused access to one of the P&O Ferries at a port in Dover following a welfare complaint by a replacement crew member. The inspectors say Port of Dover police refused them access after phoning P&O Ferries. RMT has written to UK Secretary of State Grant Shapps, who appoints the port’s board, to demand the minister clear the way for an urgent inspection Friday.

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