Demonstrators gather outside the entrance to the Port of Liverpool. Photo: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images
Protestors gathered at the Port of Liverpool on Friday calling for action over a decision by P&O ferries to sack 800 workers without notice.
The sudden axing of seafarers has led to the suspension of ferry services between the UK and parts of Europe, including Liverpool and Ireland.
Liverpool’s metro mayor Steve Rotheram, Liverpool Central ward Labour councillor Maria Toolan, Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterton and mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham joined forces with sacked workers, unions and members of the public to voice their concerns.
Around 400 people were at the Liverpool demonstration and there were other protests in Dover, Hull and Northern Ireland.
Cllr Toolan told LiverpoolWorld: “It was a fantastic turnout from across the city and councillors from right across Merseyside. That should show how we feel about how P&O have treated their workers.
“To say I’m outraged doesn’t put into words how strongly I feel. It feels so draconian, those people who have given loyalty to that company for all those years, I thought we had evolved in terms of employment, but when I heard this had happened on the radio, I couldn’t believe it.
“I know people who work on the ferries and they work incredibly long hours, it’s not easy work and what has happened is typical of a company which doesn’t value its greatest asset, its workers.”
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh, who joined the Dover rally, has written to prime minister Boris Johnson asking if the Government was aware of the ‘despicable plan to sack 800 workers without notice’.
Cllr Toolan said: “Wouldn’t it be great if the Tories did something to help working people? There may be some difficult decisions to take, but they need to go back to P&O and sit down and negotiate.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps wrote to CEO of P&O Ferries Peter Hebblethwaite on Friday saying the Government would be reviewing all contracts with P&O Ferries and DP World.
He has also asked the Insolvency Service to look at the laws around notification requirements to see if P&O had followed the correct processes.
He wrote: ‘The way in which your company has made these changes has fundamentally changed the way the British public feels about P&O Ferries - with many believing that they have seen the company’s true colours.’
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union organised the protests and described support across the demonstrations as ‘humbling’, calling on people to join the next part of the campaign on Monday, at a protest in London, outside parliament.
P&O told passengers sailing would be suspended ‘for the next few days’.
The company operates four routes: Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin, and Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland.
The firm claimed the decision to cut jobs was ‘very difficult but necessary’ as it was ‘not a viable business’ in its current state.
P&O Ferries said in a statement that it had made ‘a £100 million loss year-on-year’, which had been covered by its parent company, adding, ‘this is not sustainable.’