The sacking of P&O Ferries workers is an attack on us all

The sacking, without notice, of 800 P&O Ferries workers is an obscene attack on workers’ rights. It has exposed how weak UK employment law is in protecting working people. It has also thrust into plain sight the total disregard some employers have for workers’ rights and dignity at work.

We are a union of 47,000 actors, dancers, singers, stage management directors and performing artists. We are not a union of seafarers – although our members do perform on cruise ships - but this is an attack on every single working person.

That’s why we’re standing in solidarity with sacked P&O Ferries workers. On 18 March 2022 members of Equity’s Kent General Branch were joined by Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming at a demo on the shores of Dover. Together with fellow unions and activists, we sent a message to P&O Ferries (which is owned by DP World) to reemploy the 800 workers.

As of 31 March though, the disgraced company are still resisting calls to reinstate workers. And the government’s plans to tackle fire and rehire are falling short.

Help keep the pressure up by signing the RMT and Nautilus petition urging the government to stop P&O Ferries' sacking of 800 workers replacing them with cheaper labour. The petition also calls for new laws so no worker can be treated like this ever again, including a bill to end fire and rehire.

Ending fire and rehire

The actions of P&O Ferries have revealed just how weak the law is in protecting workers. And how employers, such as P&O Ferries and DP World, feel they can just ignore and break the laws that do exist. Last week (22 March), we joined the TUC in demanding that the business secretary names a date for the government’s long-overdue employment bill. Read the letter signed by Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming here

The union movement has long been demanding action on fire and rehire practices, which exploit the lack of penalties for employers who ignore the law to slash terms and conditions and pay. For two years Equity members fought the firing of theatre workers and their replacement with lower paid artists. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) stood with us then and now we stand with them.

We need stronger collective consultation rights and better protection for workers against unfair dismissal. Yesterday (29 March) Business Minister Paul Scully shared plans to tackle the fire and rehire of workers in the wake of the scandal. But, in the words of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the plans "lack bite". It’s time to end this practice for good.

Sign the petition calling on the government to end fire and rehire and for P&O to reinstate workers

Have you experienced unfair treatment at work?

If you are facing unfair treatment at work or the threat of fire and rehire contact the Equity Official working in your area. If you work on a cruise ship and are affected contact the Variety Team on mday@equity.org.uk