P&O’s chief executive had a grilling today during a joint session of the Commons’ transport and business select committees.
Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite told MPs there is “absolutely no doubt” they should have consulted with trade unions.
Hebblethwaite, whose basic annual salary is £325,000, plus he receives two different type of bonuses and then revealed that the average hourly pay of the new crew is only £5.50.
“We are paying above ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) minimum wages,” he said.
Business committee member Andy McDonald pointed out that is “below the national minimum wage of this country” and asked “how do you reconcile that?”
Hebblethwaite replied, “This is an international seafaring model that is consistent with models throughout the globe and our competitors.”
He claimed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps knew of their intention to cut jobs in November last year, this was strongly denied by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Explaining the decision not to consult with trade unions, Hebblethwaite said, “We assessed that given the fundamental nature of change, no union could accept it and therefore we chose not to consult because a consultation process would have been a sham.
“We didn’t want to put anybody through that.
“We are compensating people in full and up-front for that decision.”
He was asked whether he was concerned he had breached his legal obligations as a company director, Hebblethwaite responded with, “I completely throw our hands up, my hands up, that we did choose not to consult.
“We did not believe there was any other way to do this.”
He also told MPs that Mr Shapps was informed on 22 November 2021 by P&O Ferries’ owner DP World that the company would be changing its business model.
A DfT spokeswoman said, “DP World did not mention to the Transport Secretary any changes it would be making to P&O Ferries and there was no indication of the completely unacceptable changes it has subsequently made.”
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), told MPs that P&O Ferries was guilty of “flagrant breaches of the law.”
He said, “They’ve done it deliberately and they’ve factored in what they’re going to have to pay for it.”
He said the company is “threatening and blackmailing” its former employees, telling them they must sign a document or “you’ll potentially get no award whatsoever, and you have to give up all of your legal rights.”
He added, “This is absolutely outrageous,” then described UK employment law as “a shambles.”