P&O Cruises and Cunard, a fellow cruise company, have implemented a plan to terminate and rehire over 900 crew members in the UK if they do not agree to reduced salaries and increased flexibility in their work schedules.
The affected crew include officers on the British flagship, the luxury ocean liner Queen Mary 2, and nine other ships operated under Carnival UK, which is part of the $18bn-listed Carnival group.
The employees are employed by a management company in Bermuda while working on ships from Southampton. The approval for potential layoffs is given by an operational head in Mumbai.
A spokesperson for Carnival UK stated on Thursday evening that the company is not planning any layoffs. They clarified that they will not terminate and rehire employees, and have actually added more staff on their ships. The annual pay review for maritime officers will help ensure consistency among our teams and empower our employees. Our goal is to have the best teams on our fleet and keep talented individuals working on our ships.
In early 2024, a potential 919 employees in the professional, managerial, and technical roles within Carnival UK and Cunard’s fleet may lose their jobs if they do not accept new contract terms that could result in a decrease of up to 20% in their yearly income.
Last week, the Insolvency Service of the UK government was informed through the use of the HR1 form. This form is commonly used by employers to comply with the requirement of notifying officials about large-scale redundancies.
Carnival’s employment firm, Fleet Maritime Services, said on the form: “No redundancies are proposed. Consultations are related to changes in terms and conditions relating to working days and working arrangements.
“If a consensus cannot be reached on new conditions, termination and subsequent rehiring may be contemplated.”
According to the submission, discussions with employees’ representatives regarding potential modifications did not begin until November 14, the day before the form was submitted to the government.
Nautilus International, the labor union representing maritime workers, announced its support for members impacted by this issue. Garry Elliot, Senior National Organizer for Nautilus International, stated: “We strongly urge Carnival UK to retract their proposed fire and rehire policy and instead engage in productive discussions.”
We urge the UK government to take note of the P&O Ferries situation and make it illegal to use fire and rehire tactics. It is not acceptable for employers to disrespect their employees and use their livelihoods as leverage to implement major changes to their contracts.
The decision bears striking resemblance to the controversial employment situation created last year by a different company, P&O Ferries. Despite its similar name, this company is not affiliated with the one in question. The ferry operator that runs between England and France allegedly utilized a loophole in the law to terminate around 800 British seafarers without warning and replace them with cheaper contracted workers.
P&O Cruises attempted to separate themselves from this event in marketing videos, and lawmakers emphasized that the two companies were not affiliated. P&O Ferries is under the ownership of DP World, headquartered in Dubai, while P&O Cruises is a division of the British-American Carnival Corporation and plc, registered in Panama.
The majority of the staff employed on cruise ships come from agencies in Asia, specifically Mumbai.
In 2012, it was discovered that P&O Cruises had been compensating employees with a minimum hourly wage of only 75p.
Louise Haigh, the opposition spokesperson for transportation, stated: “We are seeing a repeat of history. Yet again, hundreds of seafarers are having their lives disrupted by unscrupulous employers who think they can escape consequences.”
The ministers have been inactive and disregarded numerous warnings that this would occur again unless they intervened and modified the legislation. The responsibility rests with them.