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P&O Ferries mass sacking plan was 'known about in No10' before pre-recorded Zoom dismissal

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P&O Ferries worker documents moment he is told to leave his job

Dubai-based DP World, which owns the ships, informed staff in a pre-recorded video message their employment was over on Thursday, March 17. But Government officials, it emerged, were aware of the company’s plans on Wednesday, March 16, with Labour and unions accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s team of being “complicit” in P&O’s move. A memo sent to ministers by a senior Whitehall official — and seen by the Sunday Times — outlined P&O Ferries’ strategy before the sackings took place, the newspaper said.

According to the note, Department for Transport civil servants explained the action to colleagues the night before the redundancies.

It read: “We understand that P&O Ferries have an intention to try and re-employ many staff on new terms and conditions or use agency staff to restart routes.

“Without these decisions, an estimated 2,200 staff would likely lose their jobs.

“These changes will align them with other companies in the market who have undertaken a large reduction in staff.”

The memo also said the sackings were designed to ensure P&O remained “a key player in the UK market for years to come through restructuring”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t know exactly when the Prime Minister was informed.”

READ MORE: Why has P&O sacked its staff?

Boris Johnson and P&O ferry

No10 was aware of P&O’s plans to sack 800 staff the night before it happened, it has emerged (Image: Getty)

And the Department for Transport (DfT) said it was “standard practice” for officials to outline what they had been told by a private firm in an internal memo.

A DfT spokesperson said: “This was sent before Ministers were advised of the full details and as soon as they were informed, they made clear their outrage at the way in which P&O staff had been dismissed.

“It is clear from the memo that our immediate priority was to work with unions to ensure workers; rights continue to be protected and the Transport Secretary has urged the company to sit down with workers and reconsider this action.”

But Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said: “Ministers, from the Prime Minister down, have serious questions to answer.

“This report shows his government sat on its hands and did nothing while hundreds of jobs and livelihoods were on the line.

“There was no attempt to challenge P&O on these unconscionable tactics – or even question whether these actions were legal.

“This is a national scandal. It has to be a catalyst for change on workers’ rights.”

P&O staff protest against mass sacking

Ex-workers in Hull protest against the sudden termination of their employment (Image: Getty)

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh added: “This bombshell letter proves that the Government was not only aware of P&O Ferries’ scandalous action – but complicit in it.

“They knew people’s livelihoods were on the line and they knew P&O was attempting to use exploitative fire and rehire practices. But they sat back and did nothing.”

P&O said the decision to make a quarter of its staff redundant was necessary because it lost £100million year on year and it would “not be a viable business” without “swift and significant changes now”.

The company operates major routes from the UK to the continent, including the Dover to Calais journey, one of the busiest sea-crossings in the world.

It also provides crucial links between western Scotland and Northern Ireland, Liverpool and Dublin and Hull and Rotterdam – all of which are currently cancelled.

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Kwasi Kwarteng

Kwasi Kwarteng has been urged to initiate ‘criminal proceedings against P&O’ by Labour (Image: Getty)

The way the sackings were handled was met with particular shock as the long-serving crew were removed from ships by former British special forces staff in Dover, Kent, and in Larne, near Belfast.

Amid widespread condemnation across the political spectrum, Labour has urged Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to launch legal action against P&O.

Mr Haigh, Deputy Leader Angela Rayner and Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds have written to Mr Kwarteng asking if he will begin proceedings for what they dubbed a “scandalous action”.

Under section 193 of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, employers who want to make more than 100 people redundant must notify the business secretary of their plans, before giving notice to employees.

The employer is also required to do so at least 45 days before the dismissals.

The ferry company, which still employs another 2,200 people, did not comply with this.

The Labour MPs wrote in their letter to Mr Kwarteng: “An employer who fails to provide that notification is committing a criminal offence, and liable to an unlimited fine. It is for you, as secretary of state, to launch that action.”

They asked: “Will you be commencing criminal proceedings against P&O Ferries, as well as individual directors and managers as permitted under law? If not, could you explain why?”

Labour added: “If an exploitative employer can escape without any consequences for this egregious action, it will give the green light to bad bosses across the country.”

It came after Mr Kwarteng wrote to P&O Ferries on Friday, expressing the Government’s “anger and disappointment” over the way it had handled the redundancies.

He asked the ferry company a series of questions about why it had failed to follow the above-mentioned processes.

Mr Kwarteng gave P&O until 5pm on Tuesday, March 22 to respond before deciding whether to make a formal complaint to the prosecuting authority.



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'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy

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Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

READ MORE:Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”



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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?

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After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

READ MORE: ‘Totally undeniable’ MPs colluded with Remainers to try stop Brexit

Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.



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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response

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US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

READ MORE: Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

DON’T MISS: Russia scaling back invasion as troops retreat to eastern Ukraine after weeks of stalemate

Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”



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