Demonstrators at Dover protesting the sackings by P&O © Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images
Demonstrators at Dover protesting the sackings by P&O © Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images

Supply chain delays 'unavoidable' after P&O sackings

18 March 2022

Logistics companies have warned the mass sacking of 800 employees at freight company P&O Ferries will pile pressure on UK supply chains already strained by the war on Ukraine.

The staff were fired over a Zoom call in which they were told they were being replaced by cheaper agency workers. Operations at P&O ferries have consequently been suspended, and the company confirmed there will be “significant disruption” across its services over “the next few days.”

P&O Ferries carries around 15% of all freight in and out of the UK. More than 2,000 businesses use its services, and it operates a third of the cross Channel ferry market. Last year alone, it shipped 2.2m freight units.

A Logistics UK spokesperson told Supply Management: “The suspension of all P&O Ferries services will undoubtedly have an unavoidable impact on the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain between the UK, mainland Europe and Ireland. 

“However, logistics businesses, which are known for their flexibility, are using alternative carriers where available, but some delays are unavoidable.”

Mike Bowden, group marketing & procurement manager of shipping agent Cory Brothers, told SM while the company is still trying to determine the extent of the impact, he said the situation was “absolutely” impacting shipping freight.

“Naturally as things have opened up more and trade is starting to really flow again, it will have some short-term pain which hopefully they manage to resolve soon.

“It's delaying the flow of goods because we're having to chop and change and re-route and redirect. So there's a financial element with that too.” 

He said on top of the rising fuel prices as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine, “it all starts to bite”.

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association added: “Many of our international members have been in touch asking for the latest info from Dover. We understand that they will be redirected to other providers, including the Eurotunnel Shuttle.

“We consider P&O's action, made with no warning whatsoever, to be both frustrating and irresponsible. There appears to be little consideration for customer care.”

Delivery service provider ParcelHero warned the ongoing suspension of services could have serious implications between Great Britain and Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland shipments, during a period of “already intense disruption”.

David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero, said: “P&O claims it has made a £100m loss year-on-year, which has been covered by its parent company, DP World. It argues this was unsustainable.

“However, travel to the Continent is now picking up again with the end of Covid restrictions, Brexit trade disruption is beginning to settle down and Easter holiday traffic is just around the corner. It’s extraordinary timing.”

P&O Ferries operates on the Dover to Calais route, and has links between western Scotland and Northern Ireland, Hull and Liverpool and Dublin and Rotterdam.

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