P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite defended the firm at a recent Commons hearing, saying they had sacked 800 workers without any consultation because “no union could accept our proposals”.
Well, no, clearly they wouldn’t. Just imagine what it would be like to come into work and be told via Zoom that you’ve lost your job with immediate effect, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, with inflation rocketing to a predicted 8 per cent.
The average sacked P&O seafarer was paid £36,000 a year for a skilled responsible job. Replacement crew members will receive an hourly rate starting at a shocking £5.15.
Worse, the RMT union said that Indian ratings brought in by offshore agencies to work the Dover-Calais P&O route were being paid £1.80 an hour, well below any legal minimum in the UK.
Even Conservative MP Huw Merriman, a member of the party responsible for eroding workers’ rights, described the evidence in the hearing as a “tale of corporate thuggery where a huge company thinks it can break the law with impunity”.
Yet, it seems so far as though they actually CAN break the law with impunity, and that this is set to be another example of the ruling class doing just that when it suits them.
This follows our government’s lead in breaking international law over the EU withdrawal agreement and the illegal proroguing of Parliament – not to mention the fines now being levied over Partygate and the numerous findings of illegality and corruption over PPE purchasing scandals, including by the courts.
The Labour Party was founded as the political wing of the trade union movement, to be the voice of working people in Parliament, and locally we are proud to stand alongside unions and workers.
When in administration here, the Labour group campaigned, alongside many enlightened businesses, to tackle the problem of unpaid “trial shifts”.
A number of local bars and restaurants were asking many people to work for nothing, often at busy times of the week, with no paid jobs in sight at the end. No one should be expected to work for free.
We also worked closely with Brighton and Hove Living Wage Campaign to encourage hundreds of local businesses to voluntarily pay employees the Brighton Living Wage instead of the government’s national minimum.
Many hard-fought protections for people at work were won through unions and workers being united in taking collective action.
It’s time to wake up to what the government and their associates in big business are doing to skirt around the law and erode our employment rights – it could be any of us next.
Councillor John Allcock is the joint Labour opposition leader on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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