P&O boss should resign, says transport secretary Grant Shappson March 25, 2022 at 8:24 am

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Grant Shapps calls for Peter Hebblethwaite’s resignation after the no-notice sacking of 800 staff.

P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite

P&O Ferries boss should resign over the no-notice sackings of 800 staff, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps called for chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite to step down after his “brazen” and “breathtaking” comments about “knowingly breaking the law” by not consulting staff.

Mr Hebblethwaite admitted to MPs that he broke the law but said he would make the same decision again if he had to.

“I think he should go,” Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast.

“The idea that you come to parliament and you admit that you deliberately set out to break the laws in order to sack your staff and bring in below minimum wage people and that you’ll buy off the staff to do that is quite simply unacceptable,” he said.

“They’ve exploited loopholes, they’ve been completely disgraceful and I’m clear that is no way to behave and not the right individual to have at the top of a British business.”

‘We chose not to consult’

He said the government would bring in measures next week to force P&O Ferries into a U-turn to re-employ staff on at least minimum wage.

These changes would also affect the operator Irish Ferries, who he said have used “the same model”.

“We’re simply going to make sure that these loopholes that they’ve very, very creatively, and rather evilly exploited, are closed in lots of different ways so they can’t find a way round them,” he said.

Mr Hebblethwaite was questioned by the Transport Committee on Thursday.

Asked whether P&O broke the law by not consulting the unions, he said: “It was our assessment that the change [to staffing] was of such a magnitude that no union could possibly accept our proposal.

“So as I say, I completely throw our hands up, my hands up, that we did choose not to consult.”

He added: “We did not believe there was any other way to do this and we are compensating people in full.”

Mr Shapps said the first he knew of the P&O sackings was when he was “stood at the despatch box” in the Commons last Thursday delivering a statement on another issue.

He added that even if he had known in advance, “it wouldn’t have made any difference”, because P&O Ferries had already hired agency staff, security, and recorded the video “behind everybody’s backs”.

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