Let’s really take back control


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!


The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union staged a protest outside a Glasgow recruitment office which was reportedly involved in hiring staff to replace sacked union members on P&O’s ferry routes.

The demonstration took place at the offices of Clyde Marine Recruitment, Govan Road, Glasgow. MSP Richard Leonard was in attendance to show his “support and solidarity” with the fired workers, who were replaced with cheaper agency staff.

Speaking to STV News, the former Scottish Labour leader said: “We’re here this morning because Clyde Marine Recruitment, a firm based here in Glasgow, is now playing a part in this P&O dispute and we are here to call on them to take a step back, not to get involved.“Don’t go down in history as being part of one of the most ferocious attacks on working people that’s ever been conducted in this country.”

In response, a spokesperson for Clyde Marine Recruitment said:“Clyde Marine Recruitment had no prior knowledge of P&O’s plan and, having worked with P&O for close to four decades, we fully appreciate the anger being felt by all of those affected.“Several days before the announcement, Clyde Marine Recruitment were advised by P&O that they required an additional 18 crew for a specific vessel. Such requests are not unusual.“ A further 23 crew were requested by a third-party crew manager, International Ferry Management, for a ro-ro ferry management project requiring UK seafarers. This is nowhere near the 800 crew we have been wrongly accused of providing. “Clyde Marine Recruitment has assisted in finding over 15,000 positions for UK domiciled seafarers over the past five years, with every member of staff paid UK market rates.”

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: “In fairness to Clyde Marine Recruitment it may be that they did not know the full facts and that they were duped by P&O.

They certainly know what is going on now though and can respond as any decent organisation or company would by not providing scab labour.

Talks at P&O break down


Talks between RMT and P&O broke down because the company was “simply unprepared to change course from the illegal dismissal of 800 seafarers,” according to the union.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said:

“From the outset the full obnoxiousness and hostility of the company towards their staff and the RMT was on display.

“P&O were not prepared to listen to any scenario or develop any idea that would provide a means to create a solution to the current disastrous situation.

“The meeting broke up inside 20 minutes as P&O were simply unprepared to change their course from the illegal dismissal of 800 seafarers.

“RMT will continue to press the government for an immediate intervention by whatever means necessary to make P&O perform a U-turn and get our members reinstated, as per Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ statement on BBC this morning.

“We also call on the entire labour movement, the public, the freight & logistics sector and the political community to support an immediate and total boycott of all P&O services.

The people of the UK need to pull P&O to account and make sure that the law in the workplace is upheld, that British workers can have job security and decent pay, and that P&O workers get workplace justice.”

RMT has also launched a campaign of action against P&O’s supply chain and will hold a protest at Clyde Maritime Recruitment in Glasgow on Monday.

P&O is encountering resistance as some newly recruited crew members reportedly walked off P&O vessels when they discovered how they were being used as scab labour.

A recruitment agency is offering sacked marine officers £20,000 to take back their old P&O jobs because the company has been unable to fill them.

Coupled with the ferry firm’s need to train its new recruits in vital work including safety and rescue, the shortage of officers threatens to torpedo any hopes P&O had of getting all its ferries back into service in the immediate future.

Seven vessels are reported to be standing idle, costing P&O around £1 million a day, including the Pride of Hull ferry in Rotterdam.

Shameless P&O chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite admitted to a panel of MPs this week that the company knowingly broke the law by sacking the workers — and said he would do it again.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, backed by PM Boris Johnson, said he should quit following his “brazen” comments to the joint business and transport committee.

RMT has also demanded that the Scottish, Welsh and Westminster governments kick the firm’s Dubai-based parent company DP World out of “freeport” tax havens in Britain.

Freeports are protected from taxes and duties which apply in other ports.

DP World is involved in English freeports in the Thames and Solent. In Scotland taxpayers are expected to provide £25 million funding towards establishing a freeport and another is being planned for Wales.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the three governments “must state that they will exclude DP World from the public funding and tax breaks that come with freeport status, unless our members are reinstated by P&O Ferries.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was a “watershed moment” for Britain’s shipping industry and workers’ rights.

She said DP World “must be given pariah status and lose all its government shipping and freeport contracts with immediate effect until workers are reinstated.

Don’t go with P&O

The RMT has called for members of the public to show their revulsion at P&O’s behaviour by boycotting the company’s ferries under the slogan “Don’t go with P&O.”

As the CPBML rightly said: “all we can do is fight like our trade union ancestors. This is an attack on whole communities in our coastal towns. This will be a fight led by the trade unions in the shipping industry, but it will be supported by whole communities and the trade union movement.”.

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, said: “P&O must be punished for their attack on British workers. We must break them. Those agencies supplying workers to P&O should also think carefully about the possible consequences to them. British workers need to ensure that their power is felt.”

P&O: Sinking British Jobs

There can’t have been many of us who weren’t shocked by the abrupt sacking of 800 British employees of P&O on Thursday.

The announcement by a recorded video message was a cruel way to deliver the news to the company’s loyal workforce. Union reaction to this outrageous act of throwing British workers onto the scrapheap was swift with the RMT’s Mick Lynch saying:
We are receiving reports that security guards at Dover are seeking to board ships with handcuffs to remove crew so they can be replaced with cheaper labour. We are seeking urgent legal action and are again calling for the government to take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations. If this happens at P&O, it can happen anywhere and we are calling for mass trade union and wider public mobilisation and protest against the company.

Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson weighed in with:
The news that P&O Ferries is sacking the crew across its entire UK fleet is a betrayal of British workers. It is nothing short of scandalous given that this Dubai-owned company received millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money during the pandemic. There was no consultation and no notice given by P&O. Be assured the full resources of Nautilus International stand ready to act in defence of our members’ best interests to stay onboard until further notice.

Manuel Cortes of the TSSA stated:
In any civilised country these actions would not only be unlawful but punishable in the harshest possible terms. Sadly, I doubt the Tory government will lift even their little finger to ensure this happens.

Workers magazine commented:
Remember when workers were told that the call for British jobs for British workers was a racist demand? So, what is it when the entire British workforce is sacked without notice over a Zoom call in order to replace them with a lower-paid foreign workforce?

Solidarity stands four square behind the P&O workers that have been so disgracefully treated by the Dubai owned company. It is scandalous that employees with in many cases a long history of service can be just unceremoniously dumped by an employer.

Unless the decision if reversed when booking any trips by sea we must be sure that this company is not one that we ever use.

P&O Ferry Picture by Fabian318, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons