P&O intentionally broke the law over shameful mass layoffs as CEO in a shameful admission

P&O chief Peter Hebblethwaite admits the company willfully broke the law to lay off 800 workers as the ferry’s fatcat says it would do it again, and admits the underpay for the replacements

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P&O boss asked if he was a ‘shameless criminal’

P&O ferries knew it was against labor law Cut 800 seafarers without consulting unions but did it anyway, its chief executive said yesterday.

Peter Hebblethwaite told a Commons hearing he would do the same thing again, he confirmed Replacement workers were paid less than the UK minimum.

MPs called for charges to be brought against him. Labor’s Darren Jones asked the boss: “Are you in this mess because you don’t know what you’re doing or because you’re a shameless criminal?”

P&O Ferries deliberately broke the law by failing to consult unions before laying off 800 workers because it knew they would fight the move, boss Peter Hebblethwaite said.

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Ferry Fatcat Peter Hebblethwaite at the hearing today



He also acknowledged that agency workers – hired to replace loyal seafarers who were fired on the spot – were being paid less than the national minimum wage.

The £325,000-a-year fatcat, who wouldn’t rule out accepting a bonus, insisted he would do the same again, claiming the redundancies were necessary because “otherwise P&O would close”.

He told the Commons Business Select Committee: “There is absolutely no doubt that we had to consult the union. We decided against it. In our estimation, the change was so big that no union would accept our proposal. I would make the same decision again.”

Labor MP Darren Jones asked him: “Are you in this mess because you don’t know what you’re doing or because you’re a shameless criminal?”

Ferry from Crosby Beach, Liverpoo


Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Mr Jones later tweeted: “He should be fined, fired and prosecuted.”

Labor MP Andy McDonald accused P&O of “absolute brawling” and added: “They’re acting like gangsters.”

Mr Hebblethwaite said P&O compensated those who were axed “fully” by offering at least £15,000 each, but the hearing was told this included a gag order.

RMT boss Mike Lynch told MPs: “They are threatening and blackmailing our people.”

Mr Hebblethwaite reiterated a belated apology to laid-off staff, claiming the non-disclosure clause is there to “protect both sides”.

The RMT has claimed the replacement crew was paid just £1.80 an hour. Mr Hebblethwaite insisted the lowest rate was £5.15, but that is still well below the national minimum of £8.91 for people over 23. P&O said it could undercut the UK minimum as its ships operate in international waters. Transport Secretary Robert Courts suggested ministers could fill this gap.

Tory MP Simon Jupp told Mr Hebblethwaite: “You may have avoided financial bankruptcy but in the eyes of many you are morally bankrupt.”

The RMT called for an injunction to stop P&O vessels sailing and called on the government to ensure workers are
reinstated. Labor asked the Prime Minister to clarify what legislation would be used to launch a promised prosecution.

Mr Hebblethwaite claimed parent company DP World had spoken to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last year about problems at P&O. But Mr Courts said his understanding was that discussions did not go beyond that.

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