'Pride of Canterbury, Pride of Hull – British names on ships?' Dan Walker exposes P&O fury

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P&O Ferries has found itself at the centre of a storm within parliament as Labour has now called on the business to face “criminal action” following its sacking of more than 800 workers last week. Reports emerged that those sacked were being replaced by lower-paid workers and employees heard of their firing via a pre-recorded Zoom call. With it now emerging the government received a memo beforehand of P&O’s plans, Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds didn’t hold back as he branded the entire saga a “national disgrace” to BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker.

And Walker too highlighted the British values which have been seemingly synonymous with the company over the years, suggesting the way in which the company has handled the sackings goes against just that.

Kicking off the discussion, Walker put to the Shadow Business Sec: “I’d like to ask you as well about what’s been happening with P&O the last few days. 

“It’s been reported, hasn’t it, that in the past 24 hours some government ministers were aware that there were gonna be moves made by P&O in terms of these sackings before they happened. 

“What sort of key questions, particularly the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, has to answer around that?” the BBC presenter probed.

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“It is an absolute national disgrace,” Reynolds replied. “Everyone should reject what we’ve seen from P&O Ferries. 

“Even good businesses don’t want to see behaviour like this. If it’s true that the people replacing the existing crew (are on) £1.80 an hour, how can we build the kind of economy we need on those levels of poverty wages. 

“I was in parliament for the statement, for the urgent question and the opposition debate we had yesterday, and I was there when the Transport Secretary revealed he did know the night before. 

“I wonder what sort of questions were the government asking?” Reynolds pondered. “It was clear when that memo was sent to the government that this was something out of the ordinary.”

He continued: “Unfortunately, businesses often have to restructure, I wouldn’t expect a cabinet member to be told of every case of that, but to be told yesterday that they did know in advance what was going on…

“First of all they should’ve moved to stop that and they can still move to stop that. It’s no good saying we’ll help people to get jobs who’ve been sacked in this way, no, we cannot allow this to stand.

“If this becomes the template for how these things are done in the UK from now on, there’s no future for good businesses and for people who want to see the kind of economy most people should want if that is the case. 

“I still want to see the government make clear to P&O Ferries this is unacceptable behavior, they will not be able to operate in this way. I think there is a window to do that and I certainly hope they do so.”

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Walker then asked if sanctions that would mean P&O would cease to trade in the UK would be suitable and would garner the support of the Shadow Business Secretary.

Reynolds claimed that P&O see any sanctions as the “cost of doing business” and he wouldn’t “rule anything out” when it comes to punishing the company due to his “outrage”.

Walker then delved into the Britishness synonymous with the company, before suggesting perhaps this where sanctions should hit as he asked: “I’m just sort of interested in what sanctions should be used. If you look at the way P&O do things… many companies register some parts of their companies in different countries, don’t they? 

“But some of the names of their ships – Spirit of Britain, the Pride of Canterbury, the Pride of Hull – those are some of the ferries they’ve got. Should that be removed? Should they not be allowed to have those British references on those ships?”

Reynolds admitted he could “understand” the sentimental value but claimed: “I don’t think renaming the ships is the answer to this.”

He added: “I think it’s barring the kinds of behaviour that we’ve seen is the answer to that.”

Labour is calling for a suspension to all contracts with P&O Ferries owners DP World until the matter is resolved.

MPs later backed a Labour motion condemning the decision of P&O Ferries to sack 800 staff without notice and demanding their immediate reinstatement.

BBC Breakfast airs daily at 6am on BBC One.



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