“A complete insult to workers”: Union hits out at P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite’s new ‘promotion’

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The RMT said “gangster capitalists should not be rewarded for their appalling employment practices.”

The disgraced director of P&O Ferries has taken on more directorships within the company, despite calls for his resignation over the laying off of 800 seafarers earlier this year.

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Peter Hebblethwaite, who told MPs at a select committee hearing that he had made the decision to redo staff without consultation, earns £325,000 a year as CEO of P&O Ferries.

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Who is Peter Hebblethwaite and what did P&O do?

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P&O Ferries’ decision to fire around 800 staff without consultation via a pre-recorded Zoom message drew sharp criticism earlier this year.

By failing to consult unions over the mass redundancies, the company broke labor laws to reduce staffing costs for the operator, as UK-based workers were replaced with agency workers paying just £4 an hour.

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Among other things, Boris Johnson called for the resignation of the ferry company’s CEO, Peter Hebblethwaite.

Since then, the company has been found to have committed a number of security breaches in its fleet.

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The Pride of Kent has failed safety inspections on three occasions and two other P&O ferries have also failed Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspections in the last month or so.

Safety deficiencies identified on board P&O vessels include uninstalled firefighting equipment, poorly maintained lifeboats and inadequate certification of agency crew employed by International Fleet Management.

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However, according to Companies House, Mr Hebblethwaite has taken on new board positions within the P&O group, in what the RMT union has described as a “complete insult to all workers”.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Gangster capitalists should not be rewarded for their appalling employment practices; they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

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“The promotion of Peter Hebblethwaite is a complete insult to workers everywhere, particularly our members in Dover, Hull, Larne, Cairnryan and Liverpool who continue to grapple with the fallout from P&O Ferries’ appalling attack on their jobs and livelihoods .

The bankruptcy service is currently conducting criminal and civil investigations into the company because of the mass layoffs.

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Mr Lynch added: “Hebblethwaite is paid a basic wage of £325,000 a year, while seafarers on the Pride of Canterbury are paid a basic wage of £3.97 an hour. This naked corporate greed on our main ferry routes must not continue.

“P&O and Hebblethwaite are specialists in failure and the Government must take further action to reinstate redundant seafarers and prevent further carnage in the UK ferry sector.”

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P&O refuses to carry Hebblethwaite

Speaking at an industry conference last month, Mr Hebblethwaite claimed he and the company had been the victim of misinformation and hoped he could “survive the next few months”.

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At the Shippax conference, he said, “We did not act on the day or since as suggested by me and us.”

Speaking to MPs at a hearing of the special committee investigating the mass redundancies, Mr Hebblethwaite admitted knowingly breaking labor laws and did not comment on whether he would accept a bonus this year.

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A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: “Apparently Peter Hebblethwaite has been a director of P&O Ferries Division Holdings since August 2019.

“Since his confirmation as permanent Chief Executive Officer on February 22, 2022, he has, as usual, been appointed to the boards of all subsidiaries of P&O Ferries Division Holdings.”

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