'It was EU directive!' Boris Johnson slams Keir Starmer holding on to Brussels labour rule

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Boris Johnson rebuked attempts from the Labour leader Keir Starmer to question what his Government is planning to do to support P&O employees sacked last week. Mr Johnson took issue with suggestions his party had failed to end the practice of fire and rehire, as he pointed out the policy was originally introduced as an EU directive. Speaking during PMQs, the Prime Minister said: “He may be interested to know we will be vindicating the rights of British workers, UK employees under UK law. 

“The law P&O are allegedly relying on was introduced as a result of EU directives.

“Never forget…he might not like it but that’s the reality. He would have kept us unable to change it, unable to get out of it, he would have made it impossible for us to protect UK employees in the way we are going to do.

“What we’re doing above all is ensuring that workers in this country have the best protection of all, which is a job.

“Under this Government, thanks to the steps we have taken we have people in patrolled employment, 600,000 more than before the pandemic.”

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During their exchange, Sir Keir described the Prime Minister as “all mouth no trousers” in legislating to ban fire and rehire and went on to label Mr Johnson’s approach “half-arsed”.

The Labour leader highlighted that the Prime Minister ordered Tory MPs to abstain on a Labour motion to ban fire and rehire, adding sacked P&O workers did not want new jobs but their old jobs back.

He said: “They don’t want a Prime Minister hoisting the white flag, they want him to fight for their livelihoods – 82,000 seafarers in this country.”

Sir Keir said workers he has spoken to are worried they could be next if P&O is allowed to “get away with it”, adding: “Why does the Prime Minister think that they will take a crumb of comfort from his half-arsed bluster and waffle today?”

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Mr Johnson said: “P&O plainly aren’t going to get away with it any more than any other company that treats its employees in that scandalous way.”

P&O chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite on Wednesday issued an apology for the impact the decision to fire all 800 staff last week had had.

Mr Hebblethwaite will appear before MPs on Thursday to be questioned about the dismissal after saying he understood the “anger and shock” about the loss of jobs.

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He said: “I want to say sorry to the people affected and their families for the impact it’s had on them, and also to the 2,200 people who still work for P&O and will have been asked a lot of difficult questions about this.

“Over the last week, I’ve been speaking face-to-face to seafarers and their partners. They’ve lost their jobs and there is anger and shock and I completely understand.

“We needed fundamental change to make us viable. This was an incredibly difficult decision that we wrestled with but once we knew it was the only way to save the business, we had to act.

“All other routes led to the closure of P&O Ferries. I wish there was another way and I’m sorry.”

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