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Greens Push for Action on P&O Ferries

At the meeting of Deal Town Council on 19 April, a member of the public made an impassioned plea for stronger action on the summary dismissal of P&O Ferries staff and their replacement with agency staff on lower wages. His plea comes in two parts (both reproduced below) – one a written submission and the other a statement read out at the meeting.

Green Party councillor, Mike Eddy, proposed that the Council should demand the re-instatement of the sacked staff, expressing the council’s disgust and anger at the way in which the sackings were done; that crewing levels should be increased to fully satisfy safety levels; that P&O Ferries should be nationalised as traffic to and from Europe is vital to the nation’s economy; and that facilities for drivers hoping to use the port of Dover should have decent facilities in place as soon as there are hold-ups in the Channel for whatever reason.

Cllr Eddy's proposal was supported by the Council though Labour’s Deputy Mayor abstained. The Mayor of Deal will be writing to the Government, the County Council and District Council to get some meaningful action to support the local community and the national economy.

Written Statement to Deal Town Council 19 April full council meeting from a member of the public

With reference to the report by County Councillors Bond and Murphy regarding the P&O situation (Item 14, Attachment 11), it is unlikely in my view that P&O Ferries will be able to operate at full capacity until new tonnage is brought in. All P&O ferries should be fully crewed with mariners who are fully qualified to carry out their roles in an emergency. It is not acceptable, for example, to have a crew member from the galley allocated to both fire-fighting in the galley and at the same time allocated to dealing with the lifeboats on deck. The issues of vessel seaworthiness and muster lists are down to the Maritime and Coastguard Inspectorate and we have to wait until they are fully satisfied with the safety of the vessels sailing from Dover, as no-one wants to see another Herald disaster.

In the meantime, we in this district have the serious problem of how to deal with the tailbacks of lorries and holiday-makers. It is damning that there is still no provision of toilet facilities for drivers on the M20 and that the county councillors are simply talking in their report of seeking additional funding from Government for the clean-up of the verges. The damage to Dover and the country’s reputation has already been done. So has the damage to public health, just as we are coming out of a pandemic.

I would ask Deal Town Council to press DDC, KCC and the local MP to do more than express “concern regarding P&O’s actions”. Those bodies should be expressing their disgust at the way mariners have been treated by the company and expressing their disgust at the way in which drivers are being treated by government as they wait for P&O to behave like reasonable employers and competent service providers.

Additional Comments by the member of the public at the Meeting

Members will already have read, I hope, the public statement about the P&O situation, referred to in the county councillors’ report (Item 14, Attachment 11). That report goes on to outline some of the benefits of working with partners on the other side of the Channel. But to be taken seriously as partners we have to show that we want communications between this country and the rest of Europe to be efficient and well-run, with ferries which are fully crewed with fully trained crew members.

As for a Jobs Fair some time later this month, I doubt if that will be of any consolation to those mariners who have been sacked with 30 minutes’ notice. A statement of the government’s intention to take P&O into public ownership and to re-instate all those sacked would be more helpful.