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  • Union body calls on ministers to urgently bring forward an employment bill to end fire and rehire style practices
  • Workers must be reinstated immediately – and P&O Ferries must face serious consequences if they fail to do this, says TUC
  • What happened to P&O workers “can’t ever be allowed to happen again”, says TUC

The TUC has today (Friday) has today called for the “scandalous” treatment of P&O workers to be a “turning point” for workers’ rights in the UK.

The union body says ministers must bring forward an employment bill now to stop workers from “being treated like disposable labour”.

The call comes after 800 P&O crew were sacked without notice on Thursday and threatened with handcuffs if they refused to leave their ships.

P&O Ferries’ actions appear to be unlawful. But the TUC says these events show that UK employment law urgently needs strengthening to penalise bad employers.

The union body says ministers must use an employment bill to:

  • End fire and rehire style practices and stop companies firing at will: P&O has exploited many of the same weaknesses in the law as companies using the punitive fire and rehire tactics. TUC research published during the pandemic revealed that 1 in 11 (9%) of workers have been forced to re-apply for their jobs on inferior terms and conditions. The law should state that no notices of dismissal can be given until consultation has been completed. Employees should be given protection from unfair dismissal from day one in the job.
  • Increase penalties on companies that break employment law: P&O’s failure to consult staff on their redundancies was unlawful. But companies who flout employment law in this way currently face very low fines and can get away with offering staff measly compensation.
  • Ban other forms of exploitative practices:  More than 1 million workers in the UK are employed on zero-hours contracts and thousands of others are employed in bogus self- employment. The TUC says zero-hours contracts and umbrella companies should be banned.

In addition, the TUC is calling on the government to:

  • Remove DP World (P&O ferries owner) from any government advisory groups: DP World currently sits on the influential UK Government’s Transport Advisory Group.
  • Get around the table with unions representing members in the sector to urgently review government contracts with P&O and ensure livelihoods are protected

Reinstate sacked staff

 All sacked staff must be reinstated immediately without loss of pay, the TUC is demanding – adding that P&O should face serious consequences.

The union body has warned the government that a “slap on the wrist” from ministers would not be good enough.

And the government must put in place measures to ensure that all future procurement comes with a commitment from companies receiving public money to respect workers’ rights.  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work.

“But bad bosses can still get away with treating staff like disposable labour.

“What happened at P&O is a national scandal – it can’t ever be allowed to happen again.

“Enough is enough. This must be turning point for workers’ rights in the UK.

“The government must urgently bring forward an employment bill that strengthens workplace protections and that imposes strong penalties on employers who break the law.

“The prime minister vowed to make Britain the best country in the world to work. He has run out of excuses for failing to deliver on that promise.”

On the need for the government to penalise P&O, Frances added:

“P&O has acted appallingly. It must be made an example of.

“A slap on the wrist is not going to cut it.

“If the company refuses to reinstate all of its sacked staff it should face serious consequences.”

Editors note

Notes to editors:

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


TUC press office  
020 7467 1248 

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