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by Louise Wilson
24 March 2022
MSPs will quiz P&O boss following sacking of workers

MSPs will quiz P&O boss following sacking of workers

The boss of under fire ferry firm P&O will appear before MSPs next week.

Peter Hebblethwaite, who sacked 800 workers last week, admitted to MPs on Thursday that that decision broke employment law because the company failed to consult the unions.

P&O has committed to providing compensation to the workers for the error, and Hebblethwaite offered an apology to all employees and their families.

But he also insisted the company had no other choice but to cut jobs.

He told Westminister’s transport and business committees on Thursday morning: “We thought long and hard about the route to this and we did consider every option available to us. We concluded that every single option available to use would result in the closure of P&O.

“Ultimately – and I haven’t had a chance and it would be great to talk to you about what this new crewing model looks like – it is a fundamentally different operational model and no union could accept our proposal.”

He added: “We chose not to consult, and we are, and will, compensate everybody in full for that.”

Hebblethwaite is now expected to address Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee next Tuesday.

Workers at the port of Cairnryan in south-west Scotland were among the 800 employees who lost their jobs.

Scotland’s transport minister, Jenny Gilruth, said in a letter to Holyrood’s transport committee that the decision to sack workers with no warning was “disgraceful”.

But given employment law is reserved, she said it was for the UK government to “be clear on what action it now intends to pursue” – though she expressed support for union calls to reinstate workers.

P&O also temporarily ceased its UK operations last week, causing some disruption given the strategic importance of the link between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Gilruth wrote: “We understand that P&O intends to return to the route, potentially in the next week, and that the capacity it will offer, once bedded-in, will likely replicate what was in place before it ceased operations. We have seen that optimal capacity and frequency on the routes is crucial. If that transpires, then the disruption to supply chains will have been short-term.

“The longer-term damage to households, employment opportunities and community cohesion is more difficult to assess at this early stage. And with or without a reversal of the decisions which the company announced last week, the reputational damage for P&O is likely to be sustained.”

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