P&O Ferries loses its last remaining government contract after sackings

Business

The government has cut ties with troubled P&O Ferries after the company sacked nearly 800 workers without notice.

In light of the mass redundancies back in March, the Home Office said a contract between UK Border Force and P&O Ferries would be cancelled “with immediate effect”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “In response to P&O Ferries’ unacceptable behaviour, Border Force has terminated its agreement with P&O to provide contingency travel services to juxtaposed ports with immediate effect.”

It comes after the Department for Transport also scrapped a deal with the ferry company following a review of government involvement with the embattled firm.

“We’re reforming maritime law to stop firms exploiting legal loopholes and protect workers’ rights,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted.

P&O has new crews on all its vessels, though many roles are paid below the UK minimum wage – an issue the government has promised to resolve through new legislation.

The sackings had led to widespread condemnation and calls for the resignation of P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite.

More on P&o

Following the move, Mr Shapps told Mr Hebblethwaite his reputation was “in tatters”, and his “position as chief executive, and indeed as a company director, has become untenable”.

The chief executive has since apologised, but has remained in his job.

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P&O boss: Hard ‘but necessary decision’

His company is currently under criminal and civil investigation by the government’s business misconduct watchdog.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed in April that the Insolvency Service – which is part of his department – had decided to launch a formal investigation into “the circumstances surrounding the recent redundancies made by P&O Ferries”.

P&O’s vessels have subsequently failed numerous safety checks – with a number being prevented from sailing.

In early May, the company was told that the Pride of Kent could resume sailings between Dover and Calais after passing a safety inspection at the fourth attempt.

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