I get more confused by the day - P & O
Existing staff can apply to the agency for work, in a move branded 'outrageous' by furious union leaders
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said his officials were in urgent talks with P&0 Ferries over the situation
Firm operates four routes: Dover to Calais; Hull to Rotterdam; Liverpool to Dublin; and Cairnryan to Larne
By RORY TINGLE, HOME AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 09:59, 17 March 2022 | UPDATED: 11:57, 17 March 2022
P&O Ferries today made all its crew members redundant with immediate effect and replaced them with agency staff as it kicked baffled passengers off at ports amid a huge row with unions over pay.
Existing employees can apply to the agency for work, in a move branded 'outrageous' by furious union leaders. One woman who said her father had lost his job accused P&O of a 'callous attack on working people'.
Meanwhile, furious passengers scrambled to find alternative routes, with one Northern Ireland councillor unable to travel to a funeral because of the sudden disruption.
The company said customers should continue to come to ports and they would be provided with alternative transportation.
P&O Ferries - which operates four routes between the UK and Europe - ordered all its ships to return to port this morning to prepare for an announcement that would 'secure' its 'long-term viability'.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch earlier said there was 'growing speculation that the company were planning to sack hundreds of UK seafarers and replace them with foreign labour'.
He added: 'We have instructed our members to remain on board and are demanding our members across P&O's UK operations are protected, and that the Secretary of State intervenes to save UK seafarers from the dole queue.'
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons this morning he was 'concerned' by the situation and his officials were holding urgent talks with bosses.
It came as DUP MP Jim Shannon claimed in the Commons that nearly half of P&O Ferries is owned by a Russian business. 'I understand that 40% of the holdings of P&O Ferries is held by a Russian company,' he said.
Three P&O ferries, Spirit of Britain, Pride of Canterbury and Pride of Kent moor up in the cruise terminal at the Port of Dover in Kent after the company suspended sailing
P&O said it had halted operations ahead of a "major announcement" but insisted it is "not going into liquidation
Today confused customers took to Twitter to reveal the chaos they are facing after P&O's unexpected announcement today. One Northern Ireland councillor (top left) was unable to travel to a funeral because of the sudden disruption
Mr Shapps said earlier today: 'I understand they have temporarily paused their operations and that's causing disruption at the short straits - Calais-Dover - as well as some other ports.
'I'm working with the Kent Resilience Forum and I've just instructed them to become intricately involved, and other partners in this, and we'll be taking steps later today - including ensuring that my officials will be having urgent discussions with P&O about the situation, particularly of concern for their workers.'