C'mon then, look me in the eye and sack me! | Emma Kay

P&O Ferries created a right stink when it decided to immediately sack 800 of its loyal and, in many cases, long-serving seafaring staff in a Microsoft Teams meeting.

By Emma Kay
Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 12:06 pm

This distasteful boardroom action of throwing people overboard in such a manner plunged this company’s reputation to new, darker depths.

Telling so many staff they no longer cared about their futures by video meeting meant they did not have to look these people in the eye. What a cowardly and crass act. What a shameful way to treat people. Discarding them like unwanted jetsam is, honestly, heart-breaking.

Having dropped that bombshell on so many distraught workers whose loyalty has maintained the £325,000 salary of CEO Peter Hebblethwaite, the company sent private security guards on to the ships to clear away the workers, who were still trying to take it all in.

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Protesters gather outside the Port of Hull to demonstrate against P&O Ferries. Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Staff rallied and refused to leave their place of work but eventually were forced ashore when it was ‘suggested’ they were putting their severance pay at risk by not being obedient. Staff being hurt by such a devastating statement that appears to lack any empathy from their boss is apparently out of order.

Unions have threatened legal action and lawyers have suggested workers bring unfair dismissal claims, as this mass redundancy is far from normal.

Hebblethwaite wrote to staff highlighting ‘changes to our crewing model’ while also enforcing it is ‘essential’ that staff ‘avoid posting any comments or views on social media’. These are not model changes but a mass sacking of staff you want to stay silent. It’s barbaric. Cutting your workers adrift with financial devastation is not as important as the squeaky clean and ‘essential’ image of P&O.

UK employment law is weak here as it has not stopped this brutal behaviour. Employers now see there’s little to stop such action in future. Poverty pay will go hand in hand with a 12-hour day, seven-day-a-week contract that will operate over and over for six months with no pension.

We know which two words we will think of now when we see the P&O logo. The second is ‘off’.

A WIN FOR THE WETLAND WONDER WITH THREE-MILE-LONG BOOMS

The booming bittern, Britain’s loudest bird, is back and recovering after almost being driven to extinction twice.

Despite being relatively large they are hard to spot. Dwindling numbers haven’t helped. These members of the heron family are beautiful wetland birds with a foghorn bellow that can be heard up to three miles away!

This is a conservation success story. Bitterns were driven to extinction in the 1870s when their wetland homes were drained. They returned in tiny numbers in the 20th century, but were still on the brink. Now numbers are up thanks to wetland restoration with the RSPB reporting a record-breaking 2019 with 228 males up from 209. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

THE BUTTERSCOTCH GENTLEMEN IN LEAFY COATS

I’m feeling rather daffy about daffodils. They have appeared, overnight in places it seems, like bustling butterscotch gentlemen in green leafy coats.

Decorating our dull verges and dual-carriageway reservations, they add a much-needed splash of colour and go perfectly with recent blue skies.

A few years ago everyone raised money in my neighbourhood to have them planted by the roadsides and grass verges. Every year, without fail, they spring up as spring emerges. Best neighbourly decision ever.

Nothing is as sprightly as a daffodil. They are much welcome in these times of uncertainty and upheaval. Now I’m waiting for the May blossom to signal summer.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron. Subscribe here for unlimited access to all our coverage, including Pompey, for just 26p a day.