P&O Ferries has announced the temporary lay-off of more than 1,000 staff at its Dover operations, prompted by a drop in passenger numbers and taking advantage of the Government’s decision to pay wages for those made redundant because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, P&O said the move involved “reprioritising efforts onto freight operations” which would “strengthen” as a result.
Yet the firm told the Daily Update that it was not increasing its some 50 daily crossings of the Dover-Calais route.
P&O says it carries about 15% of all the imports “that the country currently urgently needs. The biggest part of which [33%] is food, including fresh fruit and vegetables from southern Europe and North Africa, as well as vital medicines and medical equipment”.
It also brings detergents and cleaning products into the UK.
Janette Bell, Chief Executive Officer of P&O Ferries, said in a statement:
“Ordinarily, for P&O Ferries to provide the service required for the transport of freight, there needs to be a mix of passengers and cargo on the ships. However, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, there are now very few passengers travelling and we cannot sustain these normal operations.
“Consequently, P&O Ferries will be suspending its passenger business and we will be focusing all of our efforts on maintaining the flow of freight to Britain.
“This means that 1100 of our hard-working and dedicated staff in the passenger services part of our business will be furloughed onto the Government’s pay scheme. Without being able to make this decision, we would not be able to continue any of our operations.”
Staff will continue to receive full basic pay, but with P&O topping up the 80 per cent of these wages through the government furlough scheme announced last week.