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Demonstration in support of P&O workers

Demonstration in support of P&O workers, Photo: Kate O'Neil

Trade unionists demonstrate in London in solidarity with workers after their appalling sacking by P&O, reports Kate O'Neil

Over 100 protesters gathered in central London on Friday evening outside the head office of P&O’s parent company, DP World, to give notice that the labour movement would not take the sackings lying down. Members of RMT, the union representing sacked seafarers, and Nautilus, the union representing sacked sea captains and officers, were joined in solidarity from members of the Labour Party and other organisations and unions, including the TSSA, NEU, UCU, CWU, as well as London regional TUC.

Speakers decried the particular callousness and heavy-handedness with which the firings were carried out, seeing it as the culmination of decades of neoliberalism and anti-union legislation. Alex Kenny of NEU pointed out that calling this a case of ‘fire and rehire’ is ‘too soft’, saying it really is a case of ‘just fire.’

Labour MP Richard Burgon compared the balaclava-clad private security guards who escorted workers off the ferries to goons that mining bosses used to break up strikes in early twentieth century America. Comedian Mark Thomas labelled DP World a ‘Putin’ of big business, as it behaved with such impunity.

It was hard not to see this attack on workers within the context of the war in Ukraine. Calling on the government to sanction the company, Mick Lynch, the Secretary-General of RMT, observed that in the last few weeks ‘the government has shown it can seize the assets of oligarchs’ and demanded that they do the same with DP World, which is owned by Dubai’s royal family.

Jeremy Corbyn further outlined what a ‘sensible government’ would do in response to these sackings: remove any contracts it has with P&O, require any government loans that had been given to the company be returned, and reinstate the workers’ jobs. Where those conditions were not met, P&O should be brought under public ownership. Well stated!

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