P&O owners make huge profits a year by laying off 800 ferry workers

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The Mail on Sunday has revealed that the owners of Dubai-based P&O Ferries have paid out £1billion in dividends since 2017.

The revelation came after the sudden layoffs of nearly 800 prosthetists and orthopedists in March sparked a wave of outrage and political scrutiny.

Documents filed by the company with the owner of the company, DP World, reveal the extent of its positive payouts.

Anger: Layoffs of 800 P&O workers in March sparked wave of protests

Recently, he announced a grand prize of £233million to shareholders from the previous financial year. This is despite a claim months ago by P&O Ferries chief Peter Hebblethwaite that the decision to unlawfully dismiss employees without notice was necessary to “save the business”.

A blunt decision to fire an employee in March during an unscheduled video call put P&O Ferries under questioning in front of MPs.

The State Bankruptcy Office recently said there was “no real prospect of conviction”, but it also triggered criminal and civil investigations.

The laid-off employees were controversially replaced by cheaper agency employees to cut costs. This drove DP World’s profit to a record £603m in the first half.

RMT Union said last week that ‘the expulsion of British seafarers from P&O ferries has always been aimed at increasing DP World’s profits’.

DP World is ultimately owned by the Royal Family of Dubai and its Chairman and CEO is Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem. The company is now one of the largest port operators in the world.

DP World acquired P&O for £3.3bn in 2006 and sold it to another state-owned company shortly thereafter. The British shipping giant, once dubbed “the fabric of empire” by Margaret Thatcher, was acquired by DP World for £322m in 2019.

Francis O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, accused companies in the emirate of “earning their innocence by behaving like corporate gangsters”. “DP World is lining up shareholders’ pockets, but they have complete disregard for hundreds of its dedicated employees,” she said.

A government spokesman said ‘P&O Ferries not only acted insensitive but also failed to maintain the high standards expected of a British company’.

The company previously sought £150m in pandemic relief from the government after demand for ferries collapsed. However, the claim was rejected after the company reportedly paid a £270m dividend in 2020.

The company operates services between Dover and Calais, between Hull and the Dutch ports of Rotterdam and across the Irish Sea.

In a congressional hearing, P&O Ferries admitted it was against the law not to provide a layoff notice, but said it was because none of the unions accepted the news proposal. He also acknowledged that nearly 200 of his fired employees said they lost property they left on the ship the day of the looting.

Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem came under fire in May after he praised Hubli Thwait for the “wonderful job” he had done.

DP World said over the weekend:

Additionally, DP World paid over £300m to buy the P&O ferry and has since absorbed all its losses.

“P&O Ferries’ decision was the only way to ensure business continuity.”

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