The treatment of P&O workers is an “abomination” – Andy McDonald MP

“Millions of people across the country saw in horror the fascistic scenes on social media, with taser-trained security guards with handcuffs boarding P&O ships to forcibly remove workers. It was an abomination.”

By Andy McDonald

The following is a reproduction of Andy McDonald’s contribution to the debate on P&O Ferries and Employment Rights held on March 21st, 2022.

Millions of people across the country saw in horror the fascistic scenes on social media, with taser-trained security guards with handcuffs boarding P&O ships to forcibly remove workers. It was an abomination. Civil liberties and employment rights may well be trashed in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, but despite this Government’s acquiescence they are still supposed to mean something in the United Kingdom.

I am sure many colleagues will rightly focus on the domestic employment law deficits and the whole employment environment that gives rise to such thuggery, while the Government sit on their hands and do diddly squat about it, but I also need to remind the Government of their international obligations.

DP World has—or had—a human rights statement on its website, which states:

“DP World respects and supports the human rights of our employees, our extended supply chain and the broader community around us. DP World releases its modern slavery and human trafficking statement annually. This states our commitment to ensuring that slavery, servitude, forced labour and human trafficking are not tolerated in our global operations or in those of our suppliers.”

Clearly, that does not apply to £1.80 an hour—that is slavery.

DP World goes on to say that its statement has been guided by:

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights…ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work…Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; Implementing the UN ‘Protect, Respect, and Remedy’ Framework…The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”.

This country is a signatory to all those, so let us look at the UN guiding principles, which

“are grounded in recognition of…States’ existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;…The role of business enterprises…required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights;…The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.”

Where on earth is the adherence to those principles?

There are also the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, which set out that proper notice has to be given, as does the International Labour Organisation tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy. The best one, however, is the Government’s document, “Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”. It boasts:

“The UK was the first country to produce a National Action Plan to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.

Where is the action? If there is supposed to be a plan, where on earth does it lead to?

The UN’s global goals for sustainable development speak of taking “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking” and about needing to “protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working…for all workers, including migrant workers”— we have heard little about how the Government will do that.

We all know what will happen: DP World—these bandits, these pirates of the seas—will replace workers with cheap migrant labour from the Philippines and across the world. If the Government will not seize these ships, they should not be allowed to dock.

Despite all this, they are still going to allow DP World to run our freeports. We know that these anti-trade union oligarchs will do as they like and take advantage of the industrial-scale corporate welfare that the Government are shovelling their way, with no corresponding benefit for working people who are left to scrabble for whatever benefits they can derive.

If that is allowed to happen, I warn the Minister that the working people of this country will not tolerate their abuses and this programme will blow up in their faces. It is indeed time that we took back control—of our jobs, our economy and our key infrastructure, including our ports, to rebalance power in the workplace and deliver the Labour party’s new deal for working people. I support the motion.


Andy McDonald and others show solidarity with P&O workers. Image credit: Andy McDonald, March 21, 2022.

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