Boris Johnson mentioned it appeared P&O Ferries had “damaged the legislation” by sacking 800 employees with out discover, as he vowed that the federal government would “take them to court docket”.
“It appears to be like to me as if the corporate has damaged the legislation,” the prime minister informed the Commons at PMQs. “We might be taking motion subsequently, and we might be encouraging employees to take motion.”
Mr Johnson claimed P&O Ferries had an obligation to inform the federal government in regards to the sackings 45 days earlier than the transfer – promising that the agency “aren’t going to get away with it”.
However Labour chief Sir Keir Starmer accused the PM of “half arsed bluster and waffle” on the firings, and mentioned he was “all mouth, no trousers” on employment rights.
The PM’s pledge of authorized motion comes because it emerged that the ferry firm felt in a position to sack 800 employees with out warning about due to a legislation change introduced in by former minister Chris Grayling.
The ex-transport secretary quietly amended laws in 2018 meant to guard employees to create an exemption the place there are mass redundancies on ships registered abroad.
However Mr Johnson mentioned the federal government wouldn’t “sit by” over the mass sackings – and mentioned that beneath part 194 of the Commerce Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 it appeared the ferry large had damaged the legislation.
The laws means session should start at the very least 45 days earlier than the primary dismissal takes place if an organization needs to creating greater than 100 staff redundant.
It additionally means firms are beneath an obligation to inform the federal government of the proposal to dismiss 45 days earlier than the primary dismissal.
The PM informed the Commons: “We’re taking authorized motion in opposition to the corporate involved – that’s the proper factor to do as a result of it appears to me they’ve damaged the legislation … We’ll take them to court docket. We’ll defend the rights of British employees.”
Mr Johnson added: “P&O plainly aren’t going to get away with it any greater than some other firm that deal with its staff in that scandalous manner.”
The Commons conflict got here as the corporate’s chief government issued an apology for the affect of sacking employees with out discover – however insisted the agency had acted legally.
Peter Hebblethwaite mentioned he understood the “anger and shock” in regards to the lack of jobs, however highlighted the obvious loophole in a letter to enterprise secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
“The very clear statutory obligation within the explicit circumstances that utilized was for every firm to inform the competent authority of the state the place the vessel is registered,” he wrote.
Kevin Barnett, head of employment at marine legislation specialists Lester Aldridge LLP, mentioned that Mr Grayling’s 2018 modification meant that it was “incorrect” for the federal government to threaten the ferry firm over notification guidelines.
“The modification states the notification should be made to the competent authority of the state the place the ship is registered, as an alternative of the secretary of state,” he mentioned.
Sir Keir mentioned the prime minister “had not lifted a finger” to stop the sackings final week. “If the prime minister can’t cease that, what’s the purpose of his authorities?”
The Labour chief mentioned employees he has spoken to are apprehensive they might be subsequent if P&O is allowed to “get away with it”, including: “Why does the prime minister assume that they are going to take a crumb of consolation from his half-arsed bluster and waffle at present?”
The opposition chief additionally identified that because the legislation stands, it isn’t unlawful to pay seafarers beneath the nationwide minimal wage – even when they’re working at UK ports and in UK waters.
Sir Keir mentioned: “Two years in the past, prime minister, his authorities admitted that that was unjustifiable … British employees don’t want one other empty overview, they want motion. So when will the prime minister repair that hole within the legislation?”
Mr Johnson replied: “We’re going to handle the defects within the 1998 Dwelling Wage Act … and make it possible for all people serving within the UK unique financial zone, work within the UK unique financial zone will get paid the residing wage as folks do in the remainder of the nation.”