What are the rights of workers and passengers affected by the mass sackings at P&O Ferries?

There is chaos at several UK ports after P&O Ferries halted sailings so it could make 800 crew redundant and replace them with cheaper agency staff.

The move has prompted outrage from unions and politicians, with some of the seafarers affected by the dramatic cuts refusing to disembark while others have taken to the streets in a fight for their livelihoods.

Here, Sky News explains what is going on, your rights as a passenger affected or future customer and what P&O Ferries is trying to achieve.

Read more:The many reasons P&O Ferries is cutting further jobs

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Union: ‘No consultation, no negotiation’

What happened on Thursday morning?


An abrupt statement was issued by the company that all UK sailings had been suspended pending a “major announcement”.

Only cargo and passengers on Dover-Calais crossings were told to turn up as they would be accommodated on alternative services.

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It was later confirmed that all 800 crew, including officers, had been laid off with immediate effect via a video message while agency workers were in position to take over the running of ships.

Why have all services effectively been cancelled?

All P&O Ferries services have been suspended “for the next few days”, according to P&O, with disruption perhaps lasting to the “end of next week”.

That was a change from the company’s initial position that had signalled services would face minimal delays.

The shift in its stance reflects the backlash that P&O is now facing.

Workers who have had their contracts terminated are now involved in a series of angry protests, some on board P&O ships, including at Dover which is the busiest route for P&O.

The action was inspired by trade unions fighting the firings. The RMT said it was seeking legal action.

I was due to travel with P&O. What are my rights?

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‘Security escorting P&O staff’

The situation for ferry passengers is different depending on the port of departure.

While P&O has halted its own Dover-Calais crossings, its customers there were being told that other operators could take them and arrangements were being put in place.

However, those using Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin and Cairnryan to Larne are effectively in limbo.

Passengers and freight operators whose services are cancelled are entitled to refunds, compensation and can rebook.

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P&O passengers: ‘We were left high and dry’

Consumer rights expert at Which? Adam French said: “If your ferry service is cancelled or departure is delayed for more than 90 minutes, you should be offered the choice between an alternative sailing at the earliest opportunity at no additional cost and reimbursement of the ticket price within seven days.

“If you opt for an alternative crossing, you may still be entitled to claim compensation for the delay to your original journey, and the company should provide you with snacks, meals and refreshments, provided they are available or can reasonably be supplied.

“If your journey is delayed or cancelled and an overnight stay becomes necessary, the ferry or cruise operator must offer you accommodation free of charge, if possible.”

P&O said: “If any passengers have any queries about travelling with us, we would encourage them to get in touch with our customer services team by emailing [email protected].

“Our freight customers are encouraged to get in touch with their account manager.”

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P&O Ferries behaviour ‘unforgivable’

What about the rights of the ferry workers?

The legal position around redundancy, as P&O has described its process, is that a proposal to cut jobs is put to the staff affected and their union under a consultation period.

Given that this appears to have been an action taken with immediate affect, P&O could find itself in hot water.

Regulations on redundancy consultations state: “If you do not consult employees in a redundancy situation, any redundancies you make will almost certainly be unfair and you could be taken to an employment tribunal.”

P&O has seemingly looked to bypass the process by saying that those sacked will be compensated for the lack of notice with “enhanced compensation packages”.

Is P&O Cruises affected?

The cruise line is unaffected by the developments as it is a separate business owned by Carnival UK.