P&O Ferries boss on £325,000 a year branded 'shameless criminal' in Commons committee

Peter Hebblethwaite, Chief Executive, P&O Ferries, answering questions in front of the Transport Committee and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee in the House of Commmons on the subject of P&O Ferries after the ferry giant handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices last week.
Peter Hebblethwaite, Chief Executive, P&O Ferries, answering questions in front of the Transport Committee and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee in the House of Commmons on the subject of P&O Ferries after the ferry giant handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices last week.

Trade union boss Mick Lynch described the company's actions as 'absolutely outrageous'

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Peter Hebblethwaite, chief executive of P&O Ferries, has told MPs his basic salary is £325,000, and said he believed the company was otherwise “going to close” without action over jobs.

Asked if he had increased or decreased the value of the company by his actions, Mr Hebblethwaite said: “I think that P&O was otherwise going to close, and didn’t have a future.”

Questioned on whether he would accept a performance-related bonus if his employers were “mad enough” to offer one, Mr Hebblethwaite said: “I can’t tell you how far that is from my thoughts.

“I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve got to be honest I’m not focussed on that, I’m focussed on saving the business and getting the 800 seafarers new jobs.”

P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite said he wanted to apologise after 800 seafarers were sacked.

He told MPs: “Can I start these with an apology?

“An apology to seafarers that were affected on Thursday of last week, an apology to their families, an apology to the 2,200 of our employees who have had to face very difficult questions over the last week or so.

“You may see this as a late apology and I just want to reassure you the reason that you’re hearing this for the first time today is because I’ve spent the last week in the business, talking to our people one to one.”

Mr Hebblethwaite was asked why P&O Ferries did not consult with staff before making them redundant.

He told MPs: “We thought long and hard about the routes to this and we did consider every single option available to us.

“We concluded that every single option available to us would result in the closure of P&O.”

He said the new way it is hiring crews is “a fundamentally different operating model and no union could accept our proposal”.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), told MPs that P&O Ferries has “made flagrant breaches of the law”.

He said: “They’ve done it deliberately and they’ve factored in what they’re going to have to pay for it, and they’re threatening and blackmailing our people, saying ‘if you do not sign this document by next Thursday, you will be out of work and you’ll potentially get no award whatsoever, and you have to give up all of your legal rights to take this company to task.

“This is absolutely outrageous.”

Mick Lynch told MPs P&O Ferries wants to “kill” the merchant navy.

He said: “The whole thing is a setup and the law in this country is a shambles.

“The politicians and the lawyers in this country have watched over the last 30 years, while not only workers have been made vulnerable, but our merchant marine has been decimated and destroyed.

“If this goes the way it’s likely to go from what I’ve seen, we won’t have a merchant navy in this country.

“There will be no ratings working in British ports. British ships will cease to exist, and British ratings will cease to exist.

“That’s what P&O are aiming to achieve, to kill our merchant marine and to kill our employment laws, and something’s got to be done about it today.”