P&O Ferries’ parent company made $1bn in profit last year

Meanwhile, P&O Ferries itself paid a 0.2% tax rate - as it sacks 800 workers

Credit: Bywire News, Canva
Credit: Bywire News, Canva
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LONDON (Bywire News) - You can’t have missed the news that P&O Ferries sacked 800 workers out of the blue on Thursday 17 March – promptly replacing them with agency staff. But what you may have missed is the huge profit its parent company made – and the small issue of P&O Ferries paying almost no tax while taking £14m in public money via the furlough scheme.

Union News reported that P&O Ferries’ bosses: “stunned workers in a pre-recorded Zoom call, when they informed staff that they were being dismissed and would be replaced by cheap agency labour from abroad.

When workers rightly refused to simply accept this despotic decision, private security staff with handcuffs, believed to have been hired by the company, began to drag workers off the ships”.

Unions have organised protests across England on Friday 18 March. Nautilus union general secretary Mark Dickinson said: 

The news that P&O Ferries is sacking the crew across its entire UK fleet is a betrayal of British workers. It is nothing short of scandalous…”

There was no consultation and no notice given by P&O.”

You can tell things are bad when even Conservative MPs have condemned P&O Ferries’ actions. Employment lawyers questioned the morality, and possible legality, of it too. But the company remained incredulous, telling BBC News that its “survival was dependent on”:

making swift and significant changes now.

We have made a £100m loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Without these changes, there is no future for P&O Ferries”.

Speaking of DP World, BBC News also reported that the parent company paid £270m in dividends to shareholders in 2020. But that’s not the whole story.

DP World owns 100% of P&O Ferries. Its CEO, a UAE sultan named Ahmed bin Sulayem, was very happy on Twitter with DP World’s annual results for 2021 – a week before the P&O Ferries scandal broke. And he should be please – because DP World’s bank balance shot up. 

The company’s overall revenue grew by 26.3% (over $2bn) to more than $10bn. Crucially, DP World made an overall profit [p4] of $1.1bn. Meanwhile, the UK and its subsidiary were in dire straits. 

Little wonder P&O Ferries is laying off staff. Because its pension scheme is in deficit [p69] to the tune of $77m – that is, it is $77m short of what it needs to pay people their pensions. That’s actually an improvement on the circa $120m (£96m) it was in deficit in 2020. Moreover, it made a loss [p4] in 2020 of over £100m, on revenue of £865m. This included taking over £14m off the public [p43] as part of the government coronavirus furlough scheme. P&O Ferries problems don’t appear to me new, though – as even pre-pandemic in 2019 it made a loss [p4], albeit just £1.9m. 

Of course, its bosses were sitting pretty – with the highest-paid one earning nearly £500k in 2020 [p44] – excluding pensions and shares. And this story of corporate mismanagement wouldn’t be complete without knowing that P&O Ferries paid just £2m in tax [p45], on revenue of £865m – an effective tax rate of just 0.2%. 

I hope you can sleep well tonight, knowing that while yours, mine and every other workers’ National Insurance is going up by over 10% this year P&O Ferries paid, in theory, almost no tax. 

But you’ll surely sleep better than the 800 staff members, laid off via Zoom – caught in perhaps one of the more disgraceful incidents of UK workers’ rights violations in recent times. All while DP World laughs all the way to the bank and P&O Ferries disastrous management run the company further into the ground. 

(Writing by Steve Topple, editing by Klaudia Fior)

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