DP World London Gateway port on February 2015. DP World London Gateway port on February 2015. Photo: Department of Transoprt - Flickr / cropped from original / shared under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / license linked below

Transport Minister Grant Shapps offered P&O owner DP World an eye-watering set of exemptions from taxes and duties writes Reuben Bard Rosenberg

Tory transport Minister Grant Shapps wants you to know that he really doesn’t like P&O.

He’s told customers to “vote with their feet” and avoid P&O. It is quite a pathetic disavowal of responsibility for the Transport Minister to ask individual consumers to do his job. He is supposed to deal with abusive practices in the sector for which he is responsible.

But it’s also not really possible for consumers to “vote with their feet” in a way that will hit P&O’s parent company, DP World, that was responsible for 800 workers being sacked on the spot by pre-recorded video message, and marched off their ships by handcuff-wielding security men.

And whilst consumers may avoid P&O ferries, most of them are unlikely to get by for very long without imported goods. And if we live in London a lot of those will come through the Thames Gateway port operated by DP World.

Not only that but less than a year ago DP World’s Thames Gateway was one of a handful of ports that was granted Freeport status by none other than Grant Shapps. This offers the Port an eye-watering set of exemptions from taxes and duties.

Moreover, as a Freeport Operator, DP World has been integrated into the Department of Transport-Sponsored Freeport Enterprise Regulatory Network, whose proceedings appear to be unpublished, but whose brief is to “identify opportunities for regulatory flexibilities” – in other words, to challenge and eat away at existing regulations on business.

So Transport Minister Grant Shapps may pretend to be surprised that DP World, through its subsidiary P&O, has chosen to aggressively circumvent the minimum wage. But unless he is very stupid, he should not be.

Those of us who sell our labour are now faced with a tremendous fight against those who seem to possess an absolute entitlement to dispose of us when and as the profit motive dictates. 

If we’re going to win this we’re going to need to take the fight beyond P&O, and not only stop their inhumanely staffed ships from operating, but also go after the Crown Jewels of DP World’s UK operation. 

That means not allowing Thames Gateway to keep operating as though DP World’s subsidiary hasn’t just destroyed hundreds of lives. And it means attacking the nexus of political and business interests that makes it such a wealth-concentrating tax-light hub on which we are forced to rely.

Solidarity with P&O workers, and screw the oligarchs regardless of where they call home.

Reuben Bard-Rosenberg

Reuben Bard-Rosenberg is a socialist activist and radical folk music promoter.

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