Labor calls on government to publish legal advice on P&Os

Labor is urging the government to publish the legal opinion it received on whether P&O broke the law by laying off 800 staff on Thursday March 17. The opposition asked if there were any legal steps ministers could take to reverse the decision to lay off so many workers without any prior consultation.

The Labor has also published an analysis of the data which it says reveals P&O Ferries has received £38.3million in government contracts since December 2018.

Protesters are due to march on the Conservative Party Conference on Saturday for another day of demonstrations against the movement. Protesters will gather on the Comedy Carpet near Blackpool Tower on Saturday as speakers including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel are due to address the forum.

Chief Sir Keir Starmer has called on the government to suspend its contracts with the company and its owners DP World following the dismissal of its workers until the situation is resolved.

The party said government contracts and taxpayers’ money should be used to promote good working practices and decent conditions. He also called for the removal of DP World from the government’s transport advisory group.

Sir Keir said: “The actions of P&O are aggressive and immoral. The government’s apparent inaction is as telling of its respect for workplace safety as it is damning. At the heart of this is a community of workers, some of whom are young and beginning what they expected to be long maritime careers.

“Many have families, mortgages and responsibilities. Their lives were turned upside down overnight by an unscrupulous employer and the government sat on their hands. This Conservative government bears its responsibility. Boris Johnson’s party has created an environment in which big business thinks it has the right to disregard good employment practice, fundamental respect for workers and everyone’s right to be treated fairly.

Lorries line up for the Port of Dover after P&O Ferries suspended crossings and handed 800 seafarers immediate redundancy notices

“If a company can offload responsibility for its workforce and the government doesn’t blink, others have the opportunity to do the same. We demand that the Prime Minister grant access to the legal advice the Department for Transport has received to determine whether P&O Ferry’s actions constitute a breach of the law and whether there are legal levers to overturn the decision.

“Full transparency is essential to prevent anyone from being subjected to this appalling behavior. Any government contracts they have should be suspended until this is resolved. The Labor Party strongly supports these workers and their union, RMT. It’s up to all of us to challenge this for workers everywhere who deserve nothing less than safety and respect in exchange for an honest day’s work.

On Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to the chief executive of P&O to express their “disappointment and anger” at the massive sacking. Mr Shapps said he had instructed the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency (MCA) to carry out inspections of all P&O vessels before they return to sea to check that the new crews the company has precipitated” are safe.

He urged the company to change course and said the government was “carefully reviewing” its relationship with P&O and its parent company, DP World. Demonstrations took place in the ports of London, Liverpool, Larne, Hull and Dover on Friday as unions called for a boycott of the company.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We need to get to the bottom of this scandal. The government must be transparent and publish the legal opinions it has received. It’s the least the P&O crew deserves.

“If the company has broken the law, it must face serious consequences – not just a slap on the wrist. What happened at P&O can never happen again. Ministers must urgently present a jobs bill to stop workers being treated as disposable labor The time for excuses is over.

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