Ferry company PO have admitted their redundancy announcement “caused distress” for workers and their families.
But the firm claims the changes they are making only “bring us into line with standard industry practice”. They also say “none of our people wore balaclavas”. Reports from Thursday had suggested some of the private security personnel at Larne Harbour had worn balaclavas, but not PO staff.
The sacking of 800 staff who it is reported are to be replaced by agency workers has sparked widespread anger. Today, Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs called on PO’s parent company DP World Limited to reinstate PO staff “so that the company can recover from the PR disaster”.
He added: “DP World Limited are the ultimate owners of PO Ferries and they are spending tens of millions of pounds in sponsorship of golf’s European tour which will be known as the DP World Tour.
“However, the company’s reputation is in tatters as a result of PO Ferries treatment of their staff who they sacked without notice via video call. The European Golf tour are in danger of being tarnished by their linkage.”
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for PO Ferries said: “We know that for our staff this redundancy came without warning or prior consultation, and we fully understand that this has caused distress for them and their families.
“We took this difficult decision as a last resort and only after full consideration of all other options but, ultimately, we concluded that the business wouldn’t survive without fundamentally changed crewing arrangements, which in turn would inevitably result in redundancies.
“We also took the view, in good faith, that reaching agreement on the way forward would be impossible and against this background, that the process itself would be highly disruptive, not just for the business but for UK trade and tourism.
“We have offered enhanced severance terms to those affected to properly and promptly compensate them for the lack of warning and consultation.
“The changes we’ve made bring us into line with standard industry practice.
“All affected crew who were working yesterday were notified face-to-face and in-person on board their vessels.
“For crew who were off, PO Ferries made all efforts to notify them personally: they were individually called on the phone, as well as via email and text.
“Virtual meetings were also held but only 261 of our 800 affected staff were on those calls.
“To try to minimise disruption for our customers, we contacted everyone we could reach.
“If any passengers have any queries about travelling with us, we encourage them to get in touch with our customer services team.
“Our aim is to have the first of our services running again in the next day or two as we lose £1m a day for each day they are not moving.
“The teams escorting the seafarers off our vessels were totally professional in handling this difficult task with all appropriate sensitivity.
“Contrary to rumours, none of our people wore balaclavas nor were they directed to use handcuffs nor force.”
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