P&O crisis a lesson in how not to do HR

Categories: Salford Business School

A new specialist HR podcast has tackled the P&O redundancy crisis and includes a guest contribution from one of the workers made redundant.

The latest edition of the HR Unpacked podcast, a collaboration between University of Salford Business School and HR consultancy Peninsula, is out now, looking at the background to and fallout from the sacking of all staff by ferry company P&O.

On March 17, the company sacked 800 staff via a three-minute pre-recorded message, and replaced them with predominantly cheaper agency workers. The brutal methods of P&O terminating staff employment as well as forcing staff to leave their place of work has led to widespread condemnation and although a reported 786 crew members appear to have accepted the enhanced redundancy packages, there is still a determination to hold P&O account for their actions.

Featuring on the podcast is John Lansdown a P&O staff member of 15 years who worked as a sous chef on the Pride of Canterbury ship and has refused his redundancy terms of £30,000 as well refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement, said: “It cannot be allowed to stand because if P&O get away with this it could be a bellwether for the entire corporate landscape in the UK.”

John has now submitted an Employment Tribunal claim citing Unfair Dismissal, Race Discrimination and Harassment with punitive damages totalling £76 million. During the podcast John explained why he was going the tribunal route, “I will not accept P & O’s humiliating decision and I would never work for them again… it's just the most brutal and undignified piece of corporate vandalism that I can remember in my lifetime.”

Dr Jonathan Lord, HR expert from the University of Salford Business School, said: “Businesses can make a decision and they have to make tough decisions, but they have to follow the law and you have to treat staff fairly. You've got to do it in the right way.

“And if you don't do it in the right way, it can have a lifetime effect on people and their mental health.”

Since the sackings, CEO of P&O Ferries, Peter Hebblethwaite, has stated that no P&O worker will get less than £15,000 in compensation, with a small number receiving more than £100,000. Mr Hebblethwaite, who earns £325,000 a year as a base salary, said new staff will earn on average £5.50 which is actually above the minimum wage of £2.48 set by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

Dr Lord added: “Lots of leaders around the world now talk about ethical leadership. It's about treating people in the right way and dealing with people in the right way. The draconian leadership autocratic style has gone out in the window now, and it's all about treating people in the right way, unfolding the rules as well of directors have said, Peter Hathway could face court proceedings under the company directors action act because he hasn't followed the rules. So you've got to follow the rules and you have to treat staff in a fair and ethical way as well.”

You can listen to the full podcast, as well as listen to the extra podcast episode, where John Lansdown’s details his employment tribunal claim.

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