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Employment

P&O Ferries boss tells MSPs that he has ‘no plans to resign’

Peter Hebblethwaite, P&O chief executive, has so far resisted pressure from senior politicians and trade unions to resign.

The chief executive of P&O Ferries has told a Scottish Parliament committee that he has no plans to resign from his role amidst growing criticism around the sacking of 800 seafarers on March 17.

Peter Hebblethwaite also appeared in front of a Westminster select committee on March 24, where he told MPs that he stood by the decision P&O Ferries made and would “make this decision again”.

In his opening statement to Holyrood’s net zero, energy and transport committee, Hebblethwaite apologised to the hundreds of seafarers who lost their jobs but reiterated that even though it was a “controversial” decision, it was a “necessary” one to keep the business viable.

The P&O Ferries CEO also told the committee that the company did not consult unions on its decision — a legal requirement — as “no union would have accepted” the changes in the business “so any consultation would have been a sham”.

He made reference to “press inaccuracies” and said that he was “confident we have not done something illegal”. In Westminster, MPs repeatedly accused P&O of breaking employment law, which Hebblethwaite neither confirmed nor denied.

As well as telling MSPs that he had no plans to resign, Hebblethwaite also confirmed that, even though P&O Ferries board level pay has “reduced by about 50 per cent in the last couple of years”, he did not receive a pay cut himself to help minimise the financial impacts on the business.

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The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have called for Hebblethwaite to resign immediately over his handling of the mass sackings. 

Speaking to Sky News last week, Shapps said, “I thought what the boss of P&O said yesterday about knowingly breaking the law was brazen and breathtaking, and showed incredible arrogance. And I cannot believe that he can stay in that role.”

Shapps wrote a letter to Hebblethwaite on Monday offering him and P&O Ferries “one last opportunity” to reverse their decision before the government moves to legal measures to force this reversal. P&O Ferries has rejected this offer, claiming that most of the sacked workers have signed contracts and accepted redundancy packages .

Shapps is now expected to unveil his plans to Parliament on Wednesday that will likely include overhauling laws on pay for seafarers and tightening employment laws for the shipping industry.

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