Prince William urged to intervene in P&O Ferries scandal after owner's £1 million donation

The Dubai-based owner of P&O gave £1million to the Royal Foundation's Earthshot Prize

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been called to break connections with the owners of P&O ferries, DP World, and urge the firm to stop the sacking of 800 seafarers.

The Dubai-based logistics firm, which bought P&O in 2019, gave £1million to Prince William's Earthshot Prize and is a founding partner.

The environmental competition is planned to run annually until 2030 and sees the Royal Foundation award five winners annually for their environmental work.

In a visit to the Expo2020 Dubai event last month, Prince William met with the company's chief executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

William Hague, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem Group Chairman and CEO of DP World and the Duke of Cambridge talk during attend the Earthshot Prize Innovation Showcase at Expo2020 in Dubai, as part of his tour of the United Arab Emirates. Picture date: Thursday February 10, 2022.
William Hague, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem Group Chairman and CEO of DP World and the Duke of Cambridge talk during attend the Earthshot Prize Innovation Showcase at Expo2020 in Dubai, as part of his tour of the United Arab Emirates. Picture date: Thursday February 10, 2022.

Norman Baker, the former transport minister, said: "The very shabby behaviour by DP World is not only a disgraceful way to treat their loyal workforce but must also be an acute embarrassment for Prince William, with the company being a major supporter of the Prince's Earthshot prize to the tune of £1million.

"Prince William should without delay use his influence with his friend Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the company's chief executive, to get them to reverse their appalling action. If they won't, he should cut all ties with DP World."

Workmen onboard the P&O Spirit of Britain at the Port of Dover after P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices. Picture date: Friday March 18, 2022.
Workmen onboard the P&O Spirit of Britain at the Port of Dover after P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices. Picture date: Friday March 18, 2022.

Mr Baker told the Mail Online: "The £1million could be used to give £1,250 to each sacked employee. What is clear is that William cannot simply do nothing. He did not create this situation but he has to respond to it."

Announcing the decision on Thursday, the ferry operator, bought by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World in 2019, insisted the decision to cut jobs was “very difficult but necessary” as it was “not a viable business” in its current state.

It said in a statement: “We have made a £100 million loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent, DP World. This is not sustainable.

“Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.”

This comes as calls are being made for a boycott of P&O amid growing anger over the “scandalous” sacking of 800 workers.

Demonstrations are being held at ports on Friday and outside the Conservative Party’s spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday, with unions saying they are receiving massive support for the move to be reversed.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said there should be a widespread public and commercial boycott of the ferry giant until the jobs are reinstated.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and Fire Brigades Union (FBU) joined the criticism of P&O over the way it fired seafarers on Thursday.