Government scraps P&O contract over mass sackings

The government has cancelled a contract with P&O Ferries after it sacked nearly 800 staff without notice in March.

The Home Office said a P&O agreement with UK Border Force would come to an end “with immediate effect”.

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

The ferry firm replaced its sacked staff with foreign agency workers paid less than the minimum wage.

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.”

Juxtaposed ports are UK border controls set up in Calais, Dunkirk and some railway stations in France and Belgium, where goods and passengers are checked ahead of travel.

P&O Ferries’ contract was to transport border staff to northern France if there was a problem at the Channel Tunnel.

The Department for Transport said it had concluded a review of its links with P&O Ferries – resulting in its only contract identified with the firm being wound up.

The company’s boss told the BBC recently that he was “incredibly sorry” for the impact felt by hundreds of sacked staff.

Peter Hebblethwaite insisted that the decision was “the route we only deemed possible”, however.

The sackings in March prompted outrage and led to calls for Mr Hebblethwaite to resign..

The Insolvency Service has launched criminal and civil investigations into the circumstances around the redundancies.

P&O services were suspended after the mass sackings and several of the company’s vessels failed safety inspections before being cleared to resume operating.

The reduced ferry capacity was a contributing factor in long lorry queues building up around Dover before Easter.

Earlier this month, P&O Ferries said it was restarting Dover-Calais passenger crossings.

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