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Union calls on DP World to sell P&O Ferries as dockers face sack

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LONDON : Dutch union leaders are calling for P&O’s parent DP World to sell the ferry operator following P&O’s threat to sack up to 20% of its 84-docker workforce.

Dutch union leaders have condemned P&O Ferries management as “incompetent”, called for its parent DP World to sell the ferry operator, following P&O’s threat to sack up to 20% of its 84-docker workforce, in a reprise of the UK sackings in March 2022.

Officials from the Dutch dockers union are due to meet with P&O Ferries representative Jack Steer, on 15 December, for further negotiations, but Niek Stam, director at the union FNV Havens, has said the operator has already torn up the previous collective labour agreement (CLA).

“DP World should sell the ferry company, they don’t understand the ferry market,” claimed Stam, “they can’t run the company, all the other ferry companies are expanding,” he claimed.

Stam pointed to Stena and DFDS which he said had expanded their operations, opened new routes, increased volumes and operated successfully on the same working conditions as P&O Ferries.

P&O Ferries had already approached the Port of Antwerp-Zeebrugge to handle its two ferries, the Pride of Rotterdam and the Pride of Hull, ahead of Friday’s negotiations, in the event of industrial action, but Belgian dockers have refused to handle the vessels.

Stam said that the company wants to create a new roster with fewer staff and greater automation. He said dockers were prepared to work a new roster, but only if there is more cargo and no forced redundancies.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) said that while roro volumes had increased substantially over the past decade, backing the FNV in its negotiations with P&O Ferries.

In a statement from the ITF, which saw a joint meeting of maritime unions from around the world come together in Chile earlier this month, said: “P&O Ferries has been steadfast in its endeavour to undercut workers’ terms and conditions and axe [the] jobs of its loyal and experienced workforce.”

According to the ITF P&O’s actions were “in contrast to its competitors who have worked with unions to launch new ships, new routes and implement automation while improving wages and working conditions without laying off employees”.

In conclusion unions said they would back Dutch dockers lobbying shareholders, investors and customers in a co-ordinated effort to prevent the company’s “union busting” activities.

Mark Dickinson, the general secretary of Nautilus International, speaking in Chile backed the action in support of the Dutch dockers and called on the company to get back around the negotiating table and to enter into serious and productive discussions.

“I have just received the shock news that what P&O Ferries did to my members in March 2022, they’re trying to do to the dockers in the Netherlands. I have a message for the CEO of P&O Ferries, we won’t cop it, the dockers will not take this lying down,” warned Dickinson.

For its part, P&O believes that it has followed the proper consultation process and that unions are fully participating in those discussions. Moreover, it considers the proposed changes it is making are necessary to maintain the viability of its Rotterdam operations in the long term.

A P&O Ferries spokesman said: “We are in consultation with our staff and with unions over proposals that will make our Europoort operations more sustainable and resilient in the future. We look forward to continuing discussions over these proposals and cannot make any further comment while these are ongoing.”

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