John Lansdown joined P&O Ferries as a 16-year-old apprentice greater than 20 years in the past, and was working as a sous-chef when he was sacked final month.
Beforehand a Conservative celebration member and campaigner for his native councillor in Herne Bay, Kent, he’s now the one dissenter taking a stand in opposition to his former employer, which fired 800 UK-based crew with out session.
Lansdown was the one former worker to not enter discussions with P&O because the deadline for accepting its redundancy supply handed on Thursday.
P&O mentioned all however one of many sacked seafarers had both accepted their severance phrases — which provided 2.5 weeks’ pay for yearly labored on the firm and an additional 13 weeks’ pay for the dearth of session — or have been in talks to take action.
Explaining his resolution to refuse the cost, the RMT union member mentioned: “This can’t be allowed to face as a result of it’ll be a bellwether of the whole UK company panorama.
“I’m removed from a hard-left activist, only a individual making an attempt to make an sincere dwelling.”
The severance agreements stop former staff from speaking to the media — employees have been informed that by doing so they might sacrifice their share of the £36.5mn pot P&O has put aside to fund redundancy funds of as much as £170,000.
However Lansdown was decided to talk out and sue the corporate. After spending two separate intervals working with P&O, he’ll obtain one week’s pay for every year of his eight-year second stint, whereas former colleagues agreeing to the improved phrases stroll away with at the least £15,000.
A number of others staff additionally spoke to the Monetary Instances anonymously about their sackings and their prospects after P&O.
One, whose function concerned making certain security aboard the ships, mentioned he had labored for the corporate his whole profession of greater than 30 years. After the evening shift on a Dover-Calais ferry, he was woken by colleagues on March 17.
He was given quarter-hour to gather his belongings earlier than being escorted to the gangway by safety employees, the place he was handed a redundancy bundle. Fingers shaking and nonetheless half asleep, he mentioned he was “in a lot shock I couldn’t even open the envelope. It was like being in a dream.”
Throughout completely different boats, the expertise was comparable. P&O representatives boarded ferries, ticked off names from sheets and skim out a scripted message, telling employees the corporate had made “the very tough however crucial resolution” to fireside them.
Off-duty staff heard the message on a pre-recorded video, some receiving their redundancy packages from the supply service Ecourier, with its vibrant purple packaging bearing its slogan: “happiness delivered”.
Lansdown mentioned watching company employees board the Satisfaction of Canterbury whereas he left was “humiliating”. Some staff that spoke to the FT had but to obtain the belongings they left behind.
Employees at abroad ports described comparable scenes. Two British staff fired in Rotterdam mentioned they have been bussed to Calais, with out meals or water for the four-hour journey, and left to rearrange transport again to the UK on their very own, not returning till after midnight.
P&O didn’t reply to requests for remark in regards to the people’ statements.
Peter Hebblethwaite, its chief government, final week admitted to breaking the law over the sackings. He has mentioned he ordered the employees adjustments as a result of P&O was making £100mn losses per yr and couldn’t survive until it decreased its prices. The brand new preparations would scale back crewing prices by 50 per cent, he informed employees.
Regardless of its heavy losses, P&O agreed to a 3 per cent pay rise for staff in January, bonus funds and higher death-in-service advantages. “Why would they do this [if they were in so much trouble]?” mentioned one of many former staff.
Inspired by the wage enhance, he purchased a brand new automobile 5 days earlier than he was sacked. “In the event that they’d given me three months’ discover there’s some huge cash I wouldn’t have spent,” he mentioned.
Hebblethwaite informed the corporate’s remaining staff a day after the sackings that the brand new crewing preparations would assist rework the corporate from a “good enterprise” to a “golden enterprise”, in line with an e mail seen by the FT.
The company charged with changing P&O’s employees, Worldwide Ferry Administration, has rehired 67 captains and senior crew however most staff are new to P&O’s ships.
The federal government plans to implement minimum wages on ferries however for now, P&O’s new employees will obtain a median of £5.50 an hour.
As this week’s deadline for accepting the P&O severance packages approached, the employee liable for security checks mentioned he had felt “blackmailed”, a sentiment echoed by Lansdown.
His cost was nearly double his annual wage of almost £40,000, enabling him to repay his mortgage. However he was involved it might additionally place him within the highest tax bracket. “I’m completely stuffed for the subsequent yr at the least.”
After many years at P&O, he now faces precarious company work with different ferry operators or ranging from scratch elsewhere. “That was my life, that job,” he mentioned. “I’m not going to get a job that pays something like that as a result of I’m not expert for the rest.”
One other sacked employee who accepted the redundancy bundle, and is now contemplating a task in renewable power, mentioned: “I’ve obtained a spouse and youngsters. What’s been accomplished right here is extraordinarily unsuitable. However when there’s children concerned, I can’t afford to take [P&O] on.”