Conventions held in British ports as calls for P&O Ferries bosses increase

Hundreds of people marched in protest in ports on Saturday in the “fight for justice” after nearly 800 sailors were fired without warning earlier this month.

Demonstrations took place in Liverpool, Dover and Hull, while calls continued for one P&O Ferries boss to resign.

The crowds went with banners and posters shouting “P&O, shame on you”.

The RMT alliance promised “more protests, more campaign and more political pressure” in the coming days.

The marches came when a ship operated by the ferry company remained detained for being “unfit to sail”.

The European Causeway vessel has been detained at the port of Larne in Northern Ireland due to “faults in crew announcement, vessel documentation and crew training”, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would not compromise the safety of P&O vessels and insisted the company would not be able to rush training for inexperienced people.

Irish union workers during a meeting in Dublin Port outside the P&O terminal to send support to the hundreds of seafarers fired in recent days (Photo: Jim McVeigh / Siptu / PA)

In a move that sparked widespread outrage, The company fired hundreds of seafarers earlier this monthand plans to replace them with temps for cheaper wages.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “We can confirm that the European Causeway has been detained in Larne.

“It has been detained due to faults in the crew’s executive order, vessel documentation and crew training.

“The vessel will remain detained until all these problems have been resolved by P&O Ferries. Only then will it be inspected again.”

The MCA said there were no passengers or cargo on board the European Causeway vessel when it was detained.

The detention of ships is based on concerns about their safety and to prevent them from going to sea.

A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: “The European Causeway has undergone an inspection of the MCA in Larne, where it was deemed not to be sufficiently ready to go into operation.

“We will review the results, make the necessary changes and continue to work closely with the MCA to bring the ship back into operation.”

RMT Union General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “All the protests today were well attended and hundreds showed up in Liverpool, Hull and Dover to support the P&O workers in their fight for justice.

“There will be more protests, more campaigns and more political pressure this week as we step up the fight and exploit the public anger over the job massacre on our ferries.”

He said the demonstrations “show that the public is on our side with regard to the P&O firings”.

He added: “The government needs to introduce emergency legislation and prevent P&O from sailing with trained, super-exploited agency crews. We want to negotiate the return of all 800 laid off workers and ensure that their union’s wage rates and conditions are protected.”

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) tweeted a video that they said showed P&O dock workers in Rotterdam refusing to load cargo on a ferry set to Hull “in solidarity with the 800 seafarers illegally fired by P&O”.

Meanwhile, Irish union workers gathered in Dublin Port outside the P&O terminal to send support from across the Irish Sea to P&O staff.

The meeting, organized by the Siptu trade union, was attended by the new leader of the Irish Labor Party, Ivana Bacik, and organizer Jim McVeigh said the demonstration was intended to “send solidarity”.

He added: “The best thing we could do was hold a convention in Dublin Port outside of P&O so they know our concerns.”

More about P&O Ferries

UK Labor has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asks whether the government will seek the removal of P&O Ferries’ CEO Peter Hebblethwaite as a director under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

In a letter, the party accused the government of “sitting on its hands” instead of taking steps to hold P&O accountable, adding that the “toothless reaction risks giving the green light to exploitation”.

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said P & O Ferries’ shameful misconduct had ruined her livelihood when she called for the fired workers to be reinstated and for Mr Hebblethwaite to be “excluded” as director of his role in the crisis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson supported Mr Shapps’ call for Mr Hebblethwaite to stop.

In Larne, the local mayor of the Mid and East Antrim Council, William McCaughey, said they would support the resumption of staff immediately, while Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson welcomed the seizure of the ferry as a precautionary measure.

Additional reporting from the Press Association

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