The P&O scandal follows the pattern of the sell-out of British workers. It’s sadly nothing new. The EU was subservient to transnational capital and, so far, the story of post-Brexit Britain isn’t looking that good either.
One of the landmark decisions of the European Court of Justice was the Viking case.
Viking is a Finnish ferry company. In 2004, when Estonia joined the EU, it took advantage of the EU’s single market to sack all its workers and employ Estonian ones on cheaper wages.
The Court of Justice stood by Viking, along the way ruling that the right to strike did not apply if a strike against the “free movement” of capital and labour had a chance of succeeding.
That sad story was a major reason why leading trade union barrister John Hendy called the EU “a disaster for the collective rights of workers and their unions”.
Fastforward to the present day and far from taking back control for the people it is multinational capital who call the shots.
P&O Ferries sacked its British staff to employ foreign workers. The 800 workers were sacked on 17 March in a Zoom call with thirty minutes notice. Replacement crews with cheaper foreign labour (paid an average of £5.50 an hour) had already been hired through agencies. DP World is the parent company of P&O Ferries and it, in turn, is owned by the UAE government. Trade unions are forbidden in the UAE.
As Workers magazine correctly states:
“The idea of taking control was the guiding spirit of the movement that won the referendum to take Britain out of the European Union. The idea was both powerful and clear: Britain should be free from the European single market, which imposes free movement of capital, goods, and labour.
Britain has now left the European Union after a long struggle to implement the decision. But there’s no sign of the greater control that millions of people were waiting for. Quite the reverse – in area after area the government is handing control to the unregulated free market.”
The RMT and Nautilus International, the trade unions representing workers sacked by P&O continue their campaign with pickets at ports and elsewhere. Unions have also called for a consumer boycott of P&O. This boycott is supported by the wider union movement, including your union, Solidarity. No honest working man or woman should use P&O ferries.
It’s the ordinary British Worker who must step-up and make taking back control real. It means increasing British self-sufficiency, growing our technology sovereignty, and advocating nationalisation where appropriate. We must organise as workers but also as consumers by boycotting the bad and buying the good. We must also bring political pressure to bear to ensure that the voice of the British worker is heard loud and clear. Solidarity is a small union, but we will do everything in our power to make this happen and we call on our brothers and sisters in other unions and all those who want our country to succeed to act too. Together we are strong!