Employment

Protesters blockade Northern Irish and Scottish ports calling for boycott of P&O Ferries

The European Causeway is back on the water just days after it suffered a power failure while crossing the Irish Sea.

Protestors and members of the RMT union stage a rally at Cairnryan port, Scotland. Image: Gordon Martin

Sacked seafarers have gathered at the Port of Larne in Northern Ireland and Cairnryan port in Scotland to protest against the sailing P&O Ferries’ ships, as unions call for a boycott of the disgraced firm.

Protesters in Larne blockaded the entrance to the port, forcing P&O to take passengers onboard The European Causeway ferry through another entrance, according to RMT local organiser Darren Proctor.

The European Causeway was set to cross the Irish Sea just days after it broke down for over an hour while undertaking the same crossing due to a mechanical failure. The Maritime And Coastguard Agency (MCA) has now cleared the ferry as safe to sail.

“We’re protesting against the mass sacking of seafarers by P&O Ferries, and also about our concern for the safety conditions aboard the vessels… There will be blood on the hands of the company and the politicians because we’re just waiting for a maritime disaster to happen”, Proctor told the Big Issue from Larne.

“We’ll continuously be at these ports until P&O is brought to the table, P&O puts the seafarers back on, or P&O goes bust.”

Protesters on the other side of the Irish Sea at Scotland’s Cairnryan port were hoping to convince passengers not to take the ferry service.

RMT has alleged that it has seen agency workers’ contracts proving that some of the replacement staff are being paid barely half of the UK minimum wage of £9.50 per hour. RMT is calling for the government to take over the running of P&O ships and to reinstate all of the staff it made redundant.

“RMT activists, comrades from the trade union movement, political parties in Cairnryan are blockading the port here and we’re doing it against the bandit capitalists P&O. We’re doing it over in Larne as well today and we’ll be back on a rolling basis,” said RMT’s regional organiser Gordon Martin in Cairnryan.

Despite P&O admitting it illegally sacked its entire workforce and replaced them with cheaper agency workers, its owner DP World still holds lucrative government contracts to run the London Thames Gateway port and port of Southampton.

P&O Ferries has been contacted for comment.

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