Dubai owned ferry operator P&O could be subject to a series of successful lawsuits over its decision to fire all 800 of its UK staff via a pre-recorded video call, lawyers have said.
Speaking to City A.M. Helen Crossland, employment partner at West End law firm Seddons said P&O’s decision will expose the firm to class action lawsuits, unless it makes settlements with its employees.
“One can only speculate that P&O took a conscious, apparently commercial, decision to disregard employment law in acting as it has,” Crossland said,
“Since the pandemic began, employers have commonly, and lawfully, needed to dismiss employees remotely. The fact P&O’s employees were told of their termination via zoom is not in itself unlawful.”
“The problem lies in the wholesale lack of any procedure followed. That is what will expose it to class actions unless P&O offers enhanced redundancy packages and enters into settlement agreements with the affected employees.”
Employment rights specialist Thomspons Solicitors said P&Os decision to fire its staff vide video shows a “shocking disregard” for employment law, as it slammed the firm for acting in a “wholly atrocious manner.”
The law firm noted that current laws states that firms must consult with employees if they are planning to dismiss more than 20 staff, as it noted the consultation should last for up to 45 days in cases of mass dismissal.
“P&O’s sudden decision to fire all 800 UK staff – via a pre-recorded video call and without a single shred of consultation – is a shocking disregard of the most basic employment law,” the law firm said.
“The law states that if you’re dismissing more than 20 employees, you must consult with them. The larger the number of employees being dismissed, the longer the consultation should be – up to 45 days.”
“This is a shocking example of a major British employer acting in a wholly atrocious manner – attempting to bypass unions, sack hardworking employees and instead hire staff from agencies who will be paid less and un-unionised.”
Dover headquartered firm P&O Ferries is owned by the Government of Dubai through its Dubai World investment company.
Trade unions also slammed P&O’s move as maritime industry trade union Nautilus International said it is considering taking legal action.
“We are exploring whether P&O Ferries has acted illegally by laying off crew with immediate effect,” Nautilus chief Martyn Gray said.
“Nautilus International foresees major legal blowback from P&O’s action today and is preparing to offer members the support they need.”
Transport workers trade union RMT also said it is “seeking urgent legal action and are again calling for the government to take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations.”
RMT noted that private security guards with handcuffs boarded ships to remove workers, as it called on MPs to intervene.