By Chas Berry, member of Socialist Alternative (our sister organisation in England, Wales and Scotland)
The brutality of capitalism was on show for all to see at the ports of Dover, Liverpool and Hull yesterday as ferry bosses P&O sacked all of their 800 seafarers by pre-recorded video message. The announcement came with no warning, but the company had carefully prepared their attack. ‘Handcuff trained’ security teams had been recruited and accommodated under special contract at least two days earlier and driven to port to deal with a ‘possible backlash’ from existing staff. Meanwhile groups of agency staff, employed on inferior terms and conditions, were told to wait in uniform in coaches while the seafarers were removed by force.
The operation was met with outrage by the workers and their families, many of whom resisted their removal. In Dover, Rail, Maritime and Transport Trade Union (RMT) members blocked two roads at the entrance to the port carrying banners that read ‘stop the P&O jobs carve up’ and chanted ‘save local jobs’. Around 500 of those sacked live and have families in the Dover area and passing cars and backed up lorries honked their horns in support.
Media coverage has focused on the company’s loss of trade during the pandemic and their declared need to make ‘savings’ through redundancies. But P&O’s parent company DP World, based in Dubai, is a multi-national firm that made profits of £2.9 billion in 2020 while paying its shareholders £250 million in dividends. At the same time, it took £10 million furlough money from the Government and has now sacked its workers rather than use it to secure their long-term future.
These are not ‘redundancies’ as the jobs still need to be done! This is quite simply a gangster ‘fire and re-hire’ operation to maximise the profits of the super-rich parent company. As socialists, we demand the needs of the workforce, their families and the wider community come before the interests of the shareholders and the capitalist class. This is an attack upon all organised workers and one that must be resisted through a mass campaign to defend every job and secure a decent future.
• Reverse this criminal mass sacking — immediately reinstate all workers made ‘redundant’ with pay, terms and conditions left intact
• Nationalise P&O now to save jobs — no compensation for its gangster bosses and for smaller shareholders only based on proven need
• Organise, occupy, disrupt, strike — for mass, trade union action to resist this attack. Mobilise workers to use whichever means are appropriate to cause the maximum possible disruption to the running of P&O, from roadblocks to occupations. Defy the anti-union and anti-protest laws if necessary
• Build a mass campaign of trade union solidarity — P&O workers must not stand alone. The whole of the workers’ movement must mobilise in their support. Unite workers of all backgrounds — migrant and non-migrant — to fight for jobs with decent pay and conditions for all. As a first step, the TUC (or if its right-wing leadership refuses, the RMT with the support of all willing left-led trade unions) should call a national demonstration in defence of P&O workers and against ‘fire and rehire’ in general
• Overturn all anti-trade union laws and stop the Police Crime & Sentencing Bill. Workers must have the right to defend their livelihoods and protest injustice
• Tories Out, Starmer Out — no to this government of the bosses and the billionaires and no to Starmer’s Labour which has so-far refused to call for the nationalisation of P&O. The RMT and Jeremy Corbyn should call a workers’ movement conference to discuss launching a new left party of struggle that will stand with working people everywhere