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Sacked P&O workers to mobilise across Britain this weekend in fight to win back their jobs

Talks with bosses break down after just 20 minutes because firm is ‘simply unprepared to change course from the illegal dismissal of 800 seafarers,’ the RMT union says

SACKED P&O workers are mobilising across Britain on Saturday in the fight to win back their jobs after talks to reinstate them collapsed after 20 minutes.

The mariners and their supporters are on the picket line at the Port of Liverpool and Hull Saturday.

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

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. 

The firm is one of the agencies which recruited and supplied cheap labour to walk into 800 P&O workers’ jobs when they were unceremoniously sacked by video “with immediate effect” on Thursday March 17.

The Nautilus union has also criticised the company.

P&O is struggling to deal with the consequences of its actions 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.

But professional union Prospect warned that as long as “modest fines” and a long drawn-out appearance at an employment tribunal were the only punishments facing employers for such “abysmal behaviour … some unscrupulous employers will make the calculation that it is a price worth paying to do what they want.”

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.”

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.”

Mr Lynch said: “We are making it clear that there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide for those who have been complicit in the P&O jobs massacre.

“We will keep the pressure on at every opportunity until we get justice for the P&O workers.

“We look forward to another good turnout on Monday and greatly appreciate the remarkable solidarity from our trade union colleagues in this dispute.‎”

P&O has admitted that the workers replacing those it sacked will be paid only a fraction of their wages.‎

A spokesman for Clyde Marine Recruitment said: “We are disappointed that the RMT and Nautilus continue to single out our small company.

“We have spoken with them and explained the limited numbers involved in this situation, many of whom were on [board] before P&O sacked their workforce, and yet they continue to highlight us unfairly.”

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