Apparently the union staff are too expensive

Ministers and trade unions have condemned P&O Ferries’ mass sacking of 800 British seafarers to replace them with agency crew as shameful and “completely unacceptable”, amid furious calls for action against the company’s Dubai owners.

In the end that’s what always happens too. It might be disguised by the agency – or lower paid – staff being in another company that nicks the trade, or it might be as here. But push wages substantially above the free market rate and this is what eventually happens.

26 thoughts on “Apparently the union staff are too expensive”

  1. Yup. But they really handled this in the worst possible way: doing it via Zoom is a dick move, and guaranteed the worst possible publicity

  2. P&O Ferries (not P&O Cruises) have effectively done a Gerald Ratner and destroyed the image of the company. They will find that even with agency staff they will go bust.

  3. With everyone in the MSM fawning over ‘brave little Ukraine’, they clearly though it was a good day to bury deliver bad news…

  4. “P&O Ferries (not P&O Cruises) have effectively done a Gerald Ratner and destroyed the image of the company”

    It won’t make much difference, if any. Ratner screwed the product, told people it was crap. Which not only meant customers stopped buying there, but if you’re buying a gift for a girl, it was now right off the list.

    People will boycott Starbucks because of corporate behaviour because you get to signal. Someone comes back to the office with Starbucks, they might get told about their evilness on tax. Next time, they get Costa to get the right signal. Taking a ferry to the Dordogne doesn’t have a signal. No-one knows that you went with P&O or Brittany Ferries.

  5. Wonder how Stena manage to run the Larne route without losing money.
    It might be that lower compensation for the staff has meant they could buy bigger ships. Productivity and all being the thing.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset


    Maybe it’s short term and a very small section of their customer base, but from what I’m reading on Faceache the motorhome community is definitely outraged. People posting about how much it’s costing them to cancel P&O trips and book other options. I don’t take it as signalling, I think there’s genuine outrage.

    On this one I’m with the outrage.

  7. P&O Ferries (not P&O Cruises) have effectively done a Gerald Ratner and destroyed the image of the company. They will find that even with agency staff they will go bust.

    Dunno. If it allows them to drop their prices in comparison with other (presumably union staffed) operators then this might all blow over. It does seem to fly in the face of the spirit of the COVID compensation thing (i.e. being paid not to sack staff and then subsequently doing so), but if they can balance the reduction in staffing costs with reduction in prices then they might well get away with it.

    I’d expect the unions to try and get some kind of injunction against this in the courts, since the RMT is the last bastion of kinda private sector unionisation left, plus the RMT are the kind of bastards always looking for a good fight.

    One of those situations where you hope they both lose though.

    As for the employees, they’re done already. Best they can hope for is compensation somewhere down the line, but that isn’t going to pay next months mortgage, is it?

  8. BiND,

    I struggle with stories like this, because it’s the normal world. I stopped being an employee and became a freelancer because I was made redundant twice in two years nearly 20 years ago. Loyalty barely exists, either way. Early 2010s, I and many people got pushed out as companies did more and more outsourcing to India or Phillipines or Vietnam. And fair enough, the guys in Hanoi did a great job.

    You cost more than a bunch of agency guys? Maybe you should have lowered your costs.

  9. It comes down to trust. Next time I book a ferry, I will wonder if P&O will do another shitty move. My distrust might fade over time but they are not going to get my business for a while

  10. BonM4.”You cost more than a bunch of agency guys? Maybe you should have lowered your costs”.
    It’s rather difficult to compete with third worlders though, isn’t it?

  11. Addolff,

    “BonM4.”You cost more than a bunch of agency guys? Maybe you should have lowered your costs”.
    It’s rather difficult to compete with third worlders though, isn’t it?”

    Move to the third world, then.

    I happen to think full, unfettered free markets probably work better for everyone, but you want autarky and protectionism? Fine. No “P&O are bastards” sent from your iPhone made in Shenzen containing Samsung parts in Korea and Corning glass from the USA. Dyson can build a new factory in Malmesbury because you don’t get to buy one from Malaysia any longer. Knickers and socks from the midlands, not Bangladesh. Expansion of Pinewood because you’ll no longer be able to watch Marvel or Disney movies.

    Unless the people on those ships were BNP voters (about the only party with autarky in their manifesto), tough.

  12. The thieving (sorry, “shrinkage”) from the on board shops got too much to bear for another operator too. Wise of P&O to can the sailors remotely; if they’d have been on board when they were fired the ships would have no portholes.
    (Is that libellous? Then sue me.)

  13. philip,

    Yeah, the “this your last day and security will empty your desk with you” isn’t that uncommon in some industries. I know that when banks make people redundant in IT, they sometimes do it. Even people who probably won’t throw a spanner in the works. It’s just not worth the risk. So they send them home.

  14. According to the talking zoom blob, the terminations are “on the grounds of redundancy”. Presumably the company has calculated the costs of 800* successful unfair dismissal claims in its future and considers it worth it. They haven’t followed the legal procedures for redundancy, and the fact they can’t currently operate a normal service proves the positions weren’t redundant.

    (*I wonder if some of these workers are already being taken on by the new agency)

  15. I’m guessing that a lot of those agency staff will be qualifying for housing benefits/ supplementary benefits on account of being paid a pittance. That will be the taxpayers subsidising P&O.

    At the same time the partners and spouses of the sacked staff will be making their way to the labour exchange/ social security office to ask for a handout to tide them over until the redundancy cheques kick-in. Another cost to the tax payer.

    The ferries themselves are Cypriot flagged, not sure where the parent firm pays it’s taxes, assuming that there is any profit to be taxed.

    End of the day, the tax payer is subsidising P&O. If such a thing is considered desirable (is it?) then let’s do it properly. Pay the crews a decent salary and at least they can then fund their own homes, pensions etc rather than being on benefits for the rest of their lives.

  16. It’s the RMT. Fuck ’em. (Except any who were bullied into joining the RMT: for them – if any such exist – I do feel sympathy.)

  17. Fuck ’em.

    Fuck them all. If Britain’s supply chain is threatened seriously enough (hope not) I would support the government short-term requisitioning the boats and hiring the capable old crews to sail them, up until the other lines can take the strain. Then hand the grim sheik his boats back.

  18. Bloke in North Dorset

    What’s being missed in all the anger is that the workers have had their contracts honoured plus extra and the aren’t even forced to work out the notice period. From my experience whenever some resigns the often want to be released early so they can start the new one. It works both ways.

  19. What is (was) the actual status of these workers, where they contractors? Sounds like as I don’t believe full time staff can be treated like this. As pointed out earlier, their jobs clearly aren’t redundant.

    I think its spirit of the law vs letter. The corporate smart arses are probably in the right legally, and they undoubtedly have plans which they may well have war gamed (or am I overestimating them). But no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

  20. What comes to the fore with me is my paranoia. Surprise, surprise!!!

    I’d always understood that the UK favoured its home grown crews so it’d have sailors available when the foul foreign freaks decided to attack the noble Brits. This was the reason the lascars didn’t take over the British merchant navy in the brave old days of yore.

    Must admit I’m curious as to how this’ll affect Britain’s naval strength. Or doesn’t that matter these days?

  21. Hasn’t been the case for years, Bogan. The P&O ships are Bahamas registred, I believe and on those routes where they cross into international waters, don’t even have to have a British crew. I think cross-Channel is different because the frontier is in the Channel.

    now there are no Uboats out there, protecting the seaways is not such a high priority for the RN and the Red Duster is quite a rarity, thanks to inistence on sailors actually being paid and having decent conditions.

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