P&O Ferries broke law in sacking seafarers, CEO says

A ferry belonging to P&O is pictured berthed at the company's terminal in Hull, Britain, March 17, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Carl Recine

LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) - P&O Ferries broke the law by sacking 800 seafarers last week without consulting unions, the company's chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite said on Thursday.

"There's absolutely no doubt that we were required to consult with the unions," he told a committee of lawmakers.

"We chose not to consult, and we are and we will compensate everybody in full for that."

Hebblethwaite said P&O Ferries, a unit of Dubai-owned ports firm DP World, was losing an unsustainable amount of money and it had decided that every other option available would result in the closure of the business.

The company is replacing crews on its cross-Channel and some other routes with workers earning on average 5.50 pounds a hour, he said, well below the UK minimum wage, which rises for most workers to 9.50 pounds next month.

"Where we are governed by national minimum wage, we will absolutely pay national minimum wage," he said. "This is an international seafaring model that is consistent with models throughout the globe and our competitors."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday the government would take legal action against P&O Ferries because it believed the company broke the law in firing the staff. read more

Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by Elizabeth Piper

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