Earlier this month P&O ferries enraged the entire nation when they announced they were sacking 800 staff and replacing them with cheaper agency staff. The response has rightly been of anger and the actions have been condemned by all political parties and Unions.
However, the actions of P&O ferries are only a small part of a much greater problem with employment laws in this country and Europe.
In the maritime economy it has become normal. P&O’s actions where in response to a similar move from a rival on the Calais route. In recent years there has been a race to the bottom in maritime employment, with rivals using countries with loose employment laws to pay staff less. P&O, sadly, are not the first company to employ this tactic.
This tactic has affected many workers and their families, and it shows the need for greater intervention. Government action, although welcome, looks to have come too late for the workers of P&O and contrary to widespread belief this crisis could have been avoided.
Elsewhere in the UK, this kind of story is repeated across many more sectors, just in a slihgtly different way. Fire and Rehire tactics have become commonplace in the UK, and this happens when firms remove staff before re-employing them on worse contracts. Dozens of companies have faced allegations of using Fire and Rehire tactics. Companies accused of this include British Airways, Tesco, British Gas, Go Northwest and many more. These companies employ thousands of workers, and their actions will have had severe consequences on families up and down the nation.
Once again, the government is acting but only after much of the damage has been done. Workers across the country have been the victims of this and the government stood by and failed to support Labour’s motion to outlaw the process.
In both cases, domestic and maritime, the government only acted when public anger rose. This shows the Conservatives up as the populist party. They only act based on public opinion, rather than on principle. Workers across the country have been let down for years and we must work to ensure the changes proposed do end these scrupulous tactics once and for all.