P&O Ferries’ ‘brazen’ CEO should resign immediately over layoffs, says Grant Shapps
Shapps has vowed to force P&O Ferries to reverse its decision to lay off 800 workers and replace them with cheap agency staff as he called on the CEO to quit following the ‘brazen’ admission the company had violate labor law.
The Transport Secretary said it was ‘unacceptable’ that hundreds of workers were made redundant without warning and replaced by people paid just £5.50 an hour – well below minimum wage.
P&O Ferries CEO Peter Hebblethwaite faced a barrage of criticism when he appeared before MPs on Thursday and admitted making the decision without consulting unions was breaking the law.
Mr Shapps called the admission “breathtakingly arrogant” and said Mr Hebblethwaite should resign.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Shapps said: ‘I thought what the boss of P&O said yesterday about knowingly breaking the law was brazen, breathtaking, showed incredible arrogance and I cannot not believe that he can stay in this role after admitting to deliberately using a loophole. and break the law.
Asked whether Mr Hebblethwaite should resign “now”, he replied: “Yes”.
Under UK law, companies must give the government 45 days’ notice if they carry out mass redundancies and pay new workers a minimum of £9.50 an hour from April 1.
But P&O ferries are flagged under the Cypress flag and can use loopholes to break UK laws or pay minimum wage.
Mr Shapps said the company also failed to notify Cypriot ministers of the cuts.
He added that he would present plans next week to force a U-turn and force P&O to pay the UK minimum wage across the UK economic area.
“What I’m going to do is come to Parliament this week with a set of measures that will both close every possible loophole and force them to turn around,” he said.
“We don’t have people working from UK ports on regular routes between here and France, here and Holland and not paying minimum wage. It is simply unacceptable.
At the transport select committee, Mr Hebblethwaite told MPs there was ‘absolutely no doubt’ that under UK labor law the company was required to consult on the massive cuts.
“We chose not to consult and we compensate and will compensate everyone for this,” he said.
He was met with laughter from MPs when he said one of the reasons they had not consulted was that ‘no union’ would have accepted the job cut plan and added that A £36million compensation package had been put in place for the redundant workers.
MPs were told the business would have closed had the decision not been made.