Anas Sarwar: Labour would change law to avoid repeat of P&O sackings

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A Labour Government would change employment law “on day one” to avoid a repeat of the mass sacking of P&O Ferries seafarers, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said.

The company prompted outrage last month by sacking 800 seafarers, before replacing them with cheaper agency staff.

Speaking to the STUC Congress in Aberdeen, Anas Sarwar said his party would immediately change regulations to ensure such a sacking could not happen again.

A general election is expected by the end of January 2025 at the latest.

“Those workers kept their company going, kept our country going and demonstrated loyalty to that company and got no hint of that loyalty in return,” Mr Sarwar told delegates.

“For them to be callously sacked over Zoom, for many of them to be ambushed on ships, faced with individuals in balaclavas and handcuffs is disgusting, it is shameful, it is criminal and it cannot be allowed to happen again.”

He added: “It’s also a powerful reminder about why trade unions matter, but also a powerful reminder about why political change matters in this country too.

“The next Labour Government – on day one – has to make sure that the law is robust enough and on the side of the workers, not the employers, to make sure that never, ever happens again.”

Mr Sarwar also called for P&O bosses to be “prosecuted”, pushing for them to “face the most severe of consequences for their actions”.

The Scottish Labour leader was speaking while a P&O-run ferry was adrift in the Irish Sea due to a “mechanical issue”.

P&O Ferry
About 800 seafarers were fired by the company (Gareth Fuller/PA)

His comments come the day after STUC president, Pat Rafferty, used his speech to call for P&O Ferries chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, to be jailed.

“There is something seriously wrong with our society when a company CEO like P&O can swan into a Westminster parliamentary committee and openly state that he broke the law – and worse still, he’d do it again,” Mr Rafferty said on Monday.

“What that clearly demonstrates is how useless the law is. There is no deterrent to companies like P&O who are getting away with destroying people’s lives.

“The law needs to change. Peter Hebblethwaite should be struck off the directors’ register and put behind bars.

“That would send a clear message to employers, act irresponsibly towards workers and face the possibility that you will be jailed.”

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