The Duke of Cambridge has been urged to intervene in the P&O Ferries crisis because its owner, DP World, is a founding partner of his global environmental prize.
Prince William met Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman and chief executive of DP World, during a visit to Dubai last month and the company has donated £1m to his Earthshot Prize finalists.
DP World is also a principal partner of United for Wildlife, the charity he founded in 2014.
The Duke has been urged to use his influence to speak to Mr bin Sulayem about the decision to sack 800 P&O staff and to cut all links with the company if he cannot persuade him to change its policy.
Nearly a quarter of P&O employees were sacked with no notice via a video message on Thursday so they could be replaced by cheaper labour.
Norman Baker, the former Liberal Democrat minister, said: “Prince William did not create this situation but it’s an embarrassment to him and he can’t simply ignore it.
“In my view he needs to use his personal connections with his friend, the chief executive, to get P&O to change policy on this and to reverse what they’ve done.
“If he can’t do that then he should consider cutting all links with DP World. It’s not a great look for Prince William to be associated with such a company.
“If he can’t get P&O to change policy then the £1m should be allocated on a pro rata basis – £1,250 – to all the people who have been sacked.”
DP World, one of the world’s largest logistics and supply chain companies, is a founding partner of the Earthshot Prize’s Global Alliance and has been recognised for its work on the environment and sustainability.
The Duke was greeted by founder Mr bin Sulayem as he toured Jebel Ali Port, which is operated by DP World, during a brief tour of the Middle East last month.
He was later joined by the businessman at an Earthshot Prize networking event in Dubai, hosted by DP World, during which the company announced £1m in funding to be divided equally between two Earthshot Prize finalists.
In a speech, the Duke hailed the “remarkable commitment” DP World had made by investing in the two projects, adding: “Thank you for your tremendous support.”
Mr bin Sulayem said he looked forward to “working closely “with The Royal Foundation to promote the Earthshot Prize.
DP World is also a member of a transport taskforce led by United for Wildlife, which is trying to tackle the illegal trade in animal parts.
In a speech about the illegal wildlife trade in July 2020, the Duke thanked DP World, saying that without its support, the work of the United for Wildlife Taskforces “would not be possible.”
Kensington Palace declined to comment.
That’s all from us today, thank you for following and we will see you on Monday. Before you go, check out the latest stories from our business reporters:
Kwarteng posts new letter to P&O Ferries after addressing retired chairman
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng has rewritten a letter to P&O Ferries, directed at chief Peter Hebblethwaite, after addressing his previous statement to retired chairman Robert Woods.
Woods was appointed in August 2019 and left the company last December, according to Companies House.
Kwarteng and transport minister Grant Shapps had both tweeted their letters to Woods but their posts have now been deleted.
Local press publisher Newsquest buys rival Archant
The publisher of The National has snapped up the owner of the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) in a move that leaves the majority of the local press in the hands of just three companies. Ben Woods reports:
Newsquest has bought regional newspaper rival Archant from the buyout group RCapital in the latest round of consolidation driven by the financial pressures on the industry.
The deal brings together Archant’s magazines, local newspapers and daily titles, such as the EDP and the East Anglian Daily Times, with Newquest’s portfolio of more than 150 news brands spanning the Oxford Mail to the Glasgow Evening Times.
It means the UK’s regional news industry is largely owned by Newsquest, the Mirror owner Reach and National World, the group spearheaded by newspaper veteran David Montgomery.
John McDonnell: Seize the ships
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell called for the government to seize P&Os ships in Dover. Andrew Quinn was on the scene:
The MP for Hayes and Harlington said: “We’ve said [to Labour leader Keir Starmer], that he should now demand the meeting with the legal offices of this government to discuss what what laws can be used to ensure the full full reinstatement of all workers. And if there is a gap in the law on Monday to bring forward emergency legislation to ensure we have the laws to ensure that those jobs are secure.
“If they cannot find the legislation, they cannot find the legislation in time for Monday, seize the ships on Tuesday.”
McDonnell’s suggestion was cheered by the crowd.
They later chanted “seize the ships” as they marched towards the port.
FTSE 100 closes higher
Oil prices rose and stock markets were stable to slightly higher on Friday at the end of a week of high volatility related to the war in Ukraine.
After trading in negative territory most of the day, European stock markets turned higher at the close, shrugging off concerns about aggressive monetary tightening by different central banks around the world, sky-high inflation and soaring commodity prices. The FTSE 100 closed 0.3pc higher at 7,404.
OANDA analyst Craig Erlam suggested that “an unhealthy amount of complacency (could be) creeping into the markets”.
“I understand that markets probably fell too far against the backdrop of immense uncertainty… but when it comes to Putin and negotiations, I can’t help but think we should take apparent progress with a pinch of salt. Instead, investors appear to be taking everything at face value.”
Ministers Kwarteng and Shapps question P&O Ferries’ actions
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and transport minister Grant Shapps have both written to Robert Woods, the chairman of P&O Ferries, expressing “anger and disappointment” at P&O Ferries’ decision to fire 800 staff with immediate effect.
In separate letters, they both noted that the company had received support from government during the coronavirus pandemic. Kwarteng said:
“It cannot be right that the company feels tied closely enough to the UK to receive significant amounts of taxpayer money but does not appear willing to abide by the rules that we have put in place to protect British workers.”
Shapps said he is questioning the legality of this move and that he is reviewing the company’s contracts with the government. He said:
“I would therefore urge to begin to repair the damage that has been caused to your company’s reputation by pausing the changes announced yesterday.
“It is not too late for P&O Ferries to salvage this situation.”
Russia’s $117m debt coupon payout leaves clearing houses
Clearing houses in Europe and the US have processed Russia’s $117m bond coupon payment, bringing the funds one step closer to bondholders, Bloomberg reporter.
It is understood that the funds, denominated in dollars, have been funneled through clearing houses, which settle and clear transactions for securities.
The cash has traveled through the financial system, from JPMorgan which served as the correspondent bank, to Citigroup, the paying agent, and through the clearing houses. Typically, the cash would land shortly in custodian banks, and finally bondholders.
Solidarity from Dover local and trade unionists
A mix of workers, locals and trade unionists attended the demonstration to show their support. Andrew Quinn reports from Dover:
Some residents of Dover came out in solidarity. Bill Jones, who is retired, said; “I think it’s an absolute disgrace. It’s funny how P&O have done this in British ports but they won’t do it in France or Holland. Our labour laws are skewed to allow companies to do this.”
The 63-year-old added that he was fearful about what would happen to the town.
“I’ve seen it before. I was an ex-miner and I got made redundant in 1986. [I’ve seen] the effect it has on the community.”
Most of the crowd was filled with trade unionists, many of which had travelled to Dover. Robert Williams, a Unite member living in London, took the train to the south coast.
The 52-year-old grandfather of three said: “I don’t want these workers to think they’re on their own. The labour and trade union movement around the country needs to show that.
“People are absolutely disgusted. Every time we think an employer can’t get any lower, and then something like this happens.”
It’s time for me to hand over to my colleague Giulia Bottaro, who will steer the blog into the evening. Thanks for following alone, and have a good weekend!
FCA issues ‘operational resilience’ warning after string of LME glitches
The markets regulator has issued a statement saying it expects exchanges to “address issues, and their root causes, promptly and effectively if they arise”, following days of problems on the London Metal Exchange.
The Financial Conduct Authority said it is “continuing to work closely” with the LME after repeatedly issues at the start of trading in recent days.
Protestors outside DP World London officers
Video from union Nautilus International shows protestors starting to gather outside P&O Ferries owner DP World’s London offices.
P&O: Consultation would have been ‘highly disruptive’
It appears P&O Ferries have put out a new statement addressing why they didn’t undertake consultation before yesterday’s mass firing, per the BBC:
FTSE flat as end of trading nears
With about 45 minutes left of trading this week, the FTSE 100 has pulled back to flat for the day, having dipped into the red earlier.
Duke of Cambridge urged to use clout with Dubai to reverse sackings
The Duke of Cambridge has been urged to intervene with P&O owner DP World, a backer of his global environmental prize, and help the 800 sacked ferry workers get reinstated.
William met Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, group chairman and chief executive of DP World, during a visit to Dubai last month and the company has donated £1 million to his Earthshot Prize…
During his day-long visit to the Middle East, William toured Dubai Expo and the nation’s Jebel Ali Port, which is operated by DP World.
The company is a member of the transport taskforce of the duke’s United for Wildlife umbrella organisation, which is trying to tackle the illegal trade in animal parts.
DP World is also a founding partner of the Earthshot Prize and, during William’s visit to Dubai, it announced £1 million in funding to be divided equally between two Earthshot Prize innovations whose creators pitched their ideas at the Expo.
Norman Baker, the former Liberal Democrat minister, said:
Prince William did not create this situation but it’s an embarrassment to him and he can’t simply ignore it.
In my view he needs to use his personal connections with his friend, the chief executive, to get P&O to change policy on this and to reverse what they’ve done.
Citigroup has reportedly pushed through Russian debt payment
Citigroup has reportedly processed the $117m transferred by Russia to pay off coupon on its sovereign debt.
Bloomberg, citing a single source, has the scoop once again:
The funds are no longer with Citigroup, the person said, declining to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the issue. A spokeswoman for Citigroup declined to comment. The funds were denominated in dollars, two separate people said…
Russia’s Finance Ministry said earlier on Friday the payment is with Citigroup, and that the nation has fulfilled its obligations to investors. JP Morgan processed the funds, serving as the correspondent bank Russia used to send the payment to Citigroup, the paying agent. Typically, paying agents send funds to clearing houses, which then pass them along to custodian banks, and finally bondholders
It doesn’t seem that anyone has actually received the payment yet, so we might have a while left to go.
Burger King partner blocks Russian exit
Burger King’s partner has refused to close its 800 Russian restaurants, blocking the US fast food giant’s bid to shut down there following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
My colleague Hannah Boland reports:
Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King, said it had demanded its largest franchise partner in Russia, Alexander Kolobov suspend operations but “he has refused to do so”,
David Shear, RBI president, told staff: “Would we like to suspend all Burger King operations immediately in Russia? Yes. Are we able to enforce a suspension of operations today? No.”
He said the complicated franchise deal in Russia meant the company was unable to unilaterally change the contract or allow any of the partners to walk away or overturn the arrangement.
Marchers gathering in Liverpool
Some photos of protestors in Liverpool from the city’s metro mayor, Steve Rotheram. Labour’s Andy Burnham, who has called for a boycott of P&O Ferries, is also there.
Wall Street mixed
With about 40 minutes of trading gone, Wall Street looks pretty mixed:
- Dow Jones: –0.6pc
- S&P 500: –0.2
- Nasdaq: +0.7pc
Further protest planned to hit Tory spring conference
The RMT has added another protest, this time aimed at the Conservatives’ spring conference in Blackpool. Demonstrators will gather at 11am for a match on the venue.
Russian coupon ‘settled in dollars’
Russia transferred US dollars to settle a eurobond coupon payments due on Wednesday, Bloomberg reports.
The news service says:
Russia’s Finance Ministry said earlier on Friday the $117 million payment on the dollar bonds is with Citigroup, and that the nation has fulfilled its obligations to investors. JP Morgan processed the funds, serving as the correspondent bank Russia used to send the payment to Citigroup.
There are still several steps to go before investors get their cash, and as of 11:00 a.m. in London, five bondholders in Europe said they haven’t received the coupon payments.
The use of dollars is very important, because of expectations that a rouble-denominated payment would be rejected and constitute a default.
Show of solidarity for P&O workers
More from our reporter Andrew Quinn at the protest in Dover.
General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, and his counterpart at Equity, Paul Fleming, have both addressed the crowd.
Mr Fleming says he is there because the RMT had supported out-of-work actors during the pandemic: “There is no way that we’re not going to win.”
Union says it is in formal dispute with P&O
Maritime union Nautilus International says it sent a letter to P&O Ferries to inform management they are now in a formal dispute.
The letter says:
Further to the announcement of about 800 ‘redundancies’ made yesterday morning (17 March 2022), Nautilus International now considers itself in dispute with P&O Ferries.
This is consequential to the complete circumvention of our long-established Collective Bargaining Agreement and outrageous behaviours in its treatment of our maritime professionals. Furthermore, I note that P&O Ferries completely failed to carry out any collective consultation with Nautilus International, as required by section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
The company, we believe, have acted unlawfully and immorally in failing to provide any notice of planned redundancies and have failed to engage in any consultation process.
We urge you to establish an urgent meeting with ourselves in seeking to correct the situation.
Protestors reach port in Dover
In Dover, the crowd has now stopped outside the port, with the white cliffs in the background.
John McDonnell, Mick Lynch and Darren Proctor are among those holding a banner which says “save P&O jobs, save Britain’s ferries”.
Speaking to the crowd, RMT National Secretary Darren Proctor said: “The support that we have received here today demonstrates that what P&O have done is wrong.”
Sunak says (again) that he wants to cut taxes
Speaking at the Conservative Party Spring Conference in Brighton, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said (for the nth time) that he wants to cut taxes.
He told attendees:
My plan over the course of this parliament is to keep cutting taxes, get the tax burden down.
It is just under a fortnight until his hikes to National Insurance Contributions will kick in, despite business groups warning it will hurt them.
He said Wednesday’s Spring Statement will provide “a little bit of a look forward as to where we’re heading”.
Most expect economic downturn in coming year
Some downbeat polling on economic expectations just in:
Protest crowd begins to move
Following speeches from Mick Lynch, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and RMT National Secretary Darren Proctor, hundreds of protestors in Dover are now heading towards the port.
People are chanting “seize the ships” as they march in bright sunlight.
Hundreds of protestors now gathered
Hundreds of protestors have now assembled outside Maritime House in Dover.
A flurry of banners and flags are being waved in the air as the crowd grows. Protestors have come from across the country to show solidarity with the workers.
A loudspeaker has been brought out of the office, with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch holding the microphone.
Protestors heckle Dover MP
Protestors have been shouting at Dover MP Natalie Elphicke, blaming her for the sackings.
Shouts of “your laws caused this” and “shame on you” from the crowd as they surrounded the Tory MP.
She responded: “I’m here for the workers.”
Welby: Treatment of P&O workers a ‘sin’
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has described P&O Ferries’ actions as sinful.
In a statement alongside Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the bishop of Dover, he said:
Ill-treating workers is not just business. In God’s eyes it is sin.
P&O has sacked 800 people in Dover, a town dependent on shipping. Dover is a major part of the Diocese of Canterbury which we serve as Bishops.
The extraordinary move is at the command of DP World, the Dubai based and owned parent company, which made record profits last year. The move is cynically timed for a moment when world attention is on Ukraine. Done without warning or consultation it is inhumane, treats human beings as a commodity of no basic value or dignity and is completely unethical.
They called for Transport Secretary Grant Shapps “to prevent P&O operating until proper consultation has been carried out” and make representations to the United Arab Emirates, home of P&O owner DP World.
It is essential that if this move cannot be prevented legally that Dover receive extraordinary financial and development assistance.
RMT General Secretary: P&O broke the law
RMT’s General Secretary Mick Lynch has said that P&O broke the law over the sacking of 800 workers.
Speaking from the RMT office in Dover, he said:
The same amount of people will be doing the work tomorrow as were doing it before So there is actually no redundancy even though they’re using redundancy legislation to get rid of our people. It’s blatant law breaking…
What we want workplace justice. We want our people reinstated. We want them to have a fair crack. They’ve been ambushed. The company has broken the employment legislation, their duty to consult and negotiate with the union.
Protestors gather ahead of protest at Dover
My colleague Andrew Quinn is down in Dover, where sacked workers are planning to launch protests at noon.
He says demonstrators have started to gather outside the RMT building on Snargate Street, Dover. They will walk towards the ferry port at 12.
Members from Unite and the Fire Brigades Union have also travelled to Dover in support.
Shapps condemns ‘brutal’ sackings
Speaking at the Conservative Party Spring Forum, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps just said of P&O Ferries:
I want to take the opportunity to put on record my shock and my dismay at the insensitive and brutal treatment of its employees yesterday. Sacked via a pre-recorded Zoom video, with just 30 minutes’ notice – no way to treat employees in the 21st century.
P&O boss: cuts will halve our crew wage bill
The chief executive of P&O Ferries has said it will halve its crew costs by replacing 800 UK staff with agency workers.
In a letter obtained by the Mirror, Peter Hebblethwaite said:
The changes we’re making to our crewing model today (will) reduce our crewing costs by 50pc.
He described its new partnership with crewing company International Ferry Management, adding:
Our new teams of seafaring colleagues have already joined our ships.
Our new crew are now going through a process of intense familiarisation and training programme on our ships, run by IFM.
Only when that process has happened, will we gradually return to a normal service safely and securely – upholding our P&O standards and brand.
Johnson to hold meeting with nuclear industry leaders next week
Boris Johnson will hold talks with nuclear industry leaders next week as part of efforts to improve UK energy independence, Sky News reports.
[The] prime minister has convened a roundtable to take place in Downing Street on Monday that will be attended by companies such as EDF and Rolls-Royce Holdings.
Industry sources said that Westinghouse, the US industrial giant, would also be represented at the meeting, reflecting its role in talks about the construction of a new nuclear power plant at Anglesey.
FTSE slides with Europe in the red
With about three hours of trading passed, the FTSE 100 is moderately down, about 0.6pc at present. It’s outperforming its major peers on the Continent however – the France and German benchmarks are both about 1.1pc off.
RMT calls protest outside P&O owner’s London office
The RMT union is also going to protest outside P&O Ferries owner DP World’s London office at 4pm, it says:
Crew members have left ship at Liverpool
Sacked crew members have now left the P&O Norbay vessel, docked at Liverpool, the BBC reports.
HR body: P&O sackings were ‘inhumane’
Rachel Suff, an employee relations adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for human resources workers, has warned P&O is likely to suffer a severe fallout from the way it has behaved:
Business leaders must recognise that sacking staff on the spot via video, and with no notice, is inhumane and very difficult to justify, whatever the circumstance.
While it is a harsh reality that organisations sometimes must make job cuts, there is never any excuse for employers not to fully consider the wellbeing and financial costs to workers, and how to minimise these.
Businesses that fail to meet their legal and moral obligations to consult and treat people fairly face significant risks and costs and, just as importantly, will suffer long-lasting damage to staff morale and employment relations, as well as to their reputation and brand.
Transport union: Nationalise the ferries
Transport union TSSA has called for the Government to nationalise “vital” ferry routes to protect travel routes and send a message that Britain “will not stand for bully boy P&O tactics¨.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the union – which represents staff in other ferry companies – said:
P&O are holding our country to ransom by halting vital ferry trade routes so they can illegally and immorally sack their staff. The Tory government must stand up to P&O bullies who are controlled by Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem the owner of the company.
The government should nationalise these vital ferry routes which allow people and goods to get to and from our country – P&O must be hit where it hurts!
The Sultan living far away from our land has hardly got the best interests of our country or P&O’s staff at its hearts. The government should simply take over the running of these routes – sequestrate the vessels if required – so that goods and people can continue to flow from and to our shores and also keep P&O’s dedicated, hardworking and loyal staff in jobs.
Russia says Citi received bond payment
Russia’s financial ministry says the paying agent for its sovereign debt coupon, which was due on Wednesday, received $117.2bn.
That may mean that Moscow has averted a default on its foreign debt, although it is not clear whether Citi’s London branch, which is charged with distributing the payout, deemed itself able to do so because of sanctions.
Latest fuel prices
On the topic of driving costs, here are the latest fuel prices from the RAC – another set of records were set yesterday:
- Petrol: 165.89p per litre
- Diesel: 177.34p per litre
That’s a slightly more moderate rise than we’ve seen in recent days.
Full report: Governments told to cut speed limits to beat oil shock
My colleague Rachel Millard’s full report on the International Energy Agency’s advice for cutting oil usage is out.
Here are the recommendations:
- Cutting speed limits on highways by at least 10kmph, to save about 430,000bpd
- Work from home up to three days a week where possible, to save around 500,000bpd
- Car-free Sundays in cities, to save around 380,000bpd
- Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micromobility, walking and cycling, to save around 330,000bpd
- Alternate private car access to roads in large cities, to save 210,000 barrels per day
- Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use, to save around 470,000 barrels per day
- Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods, to save around 320,000bpd
- Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possible, to save 40,000bpd
- Avoiding business air travel where alternative options exist, to save around 260,000bpd
- Encourage uptake of electric and more efficient vehicles, to save around 100,000bpd
Gas prices up 15pc in a week as energy pressures grow
The latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics shows gas prices were 15pc higher in the week to Sunday than they were a fortnight ago.
Here are its latest economic indicators:
Ted Baker shares jump as private equity bid emerges
Shares in Ted Baker have shot higher this morning after Sycamore Partners said it is considering making an offer for the fashion group.
The private equity company said in a statement that consideration was at the early stages.
Ted Baker, once part of the FTSE 250, has seen is valuation drop 90pc over recent years amid commercial difficulties and the exit of its founder.
Rachel Osborne, its chief executive, is trying to cut debt and boost its online presence.
In its own statement, Ted Baker said it had not yet received any approach from Sycamore. It added:
Ted Baker continues to make good progress with its transformation and the Company is emerging from Covid as a stronger and more financially sustainable business. The Board is confident in the Company’s independent prospects and would evaluate any offer for the Company against the strong shareholder value creation that it believes can be delivered as a standalone company.
There can be no certainty that any firm offer for the Company will be made nor as to the terms on which any firm offer might be made.
It urged shareholders not to take any action.
Full report: RT loses UK licence
My colleague Ben Woods has a full report out on Russia Today losing its licence to broadcaster in the UK.
Ofcom said the Kremlin-backed broadcaster was facing 29 ongoing investigations linked to its coverage of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The watchdog added that a separate inquiry into RT’s licensee ANO TV Novosti had exposed its links to the Kremlin, while new laws criminalising independent journalism in Russia meant RT could no longer provide an impartial view of the conflict.
The move was largely symbolic as the European Union has already sanctioned RT, prompting its removal from UK TV screens such as Freeview, Britain’s biggest free-to-air broadcaster, and pay TV giant Sky.
IEA recommends speed limit cuts as part of plan to reduce oil reliance
The International Energy Agency has recommended cuts to speed limits, working from home three days a week and car-free Sundays in order to stave off an oil supply crunch amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.
My colleague Rachel Millard reports:
The group, whose members are OECD countries including the UK, says the measures, if adopted by advanced economies, could cut oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day (mbpd) within four months.
Russia is the world’s largest oil exporter but the IEA has warned about three million barrels per day of its supplies could be cut off as traders shun its products and with the US and the UK banning Russian oil imports.
This morning the IEA is setting out a “ten-point plan” to cut oil use, which also recommends cheaper public transport to encourage uptake, use of high-speed trains instead of planes, and avoiding business air travel where possible.
The extraordinary recommendations echo the 1970s when speed limits in the US and the UK were cut to reduce petrol consumption in response to the Arab oil embargo.
We’ll have a full report on this up shortly.
Putin backs Nabiullina for third term
Russian president Vladimir Putin has given Elvira Nabiullina his backing for a third term at the helm of Russia’s central bank.
The move to maintain the Governor shows the Kremlin is happy to keep a technocrat in place as Russia feels the blowback from economic sanctions.
She has led the central bank through several crises since taking the reins in 2013. Ms Nabiullina is known as a hawk, willing to fight inflation even if it means slowing the country’s economy down.
She maintained her independence despite occasional criticism from Putin as he sought to bolster growth. However, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine unleashed harsh sanctions that showed her efforts to erect “fortress Russia” insulated from western influence fell short.
More footage from onboard yesterday
Maritime union Nautilus International has posted another video of scenes onboard a P&O vessel yesterday.
It shows a security worker offering staff two hours to exit the vessel.
Nothing too exciting in there, but it does give a sense of the tensions onboard.
Redwood: P&O shutdown hurts imports
Outspoken Tory backbencher Sir John Redwood has warned over the impact the P&O shutdown will have on imports.
The group is responsible for about 15pc of all freight cargo in and out of the UK.
Shipping group: P&O agency staff will be safe
Peter Aylott, director of policy at the UK Chamber of Shipping, which represents the shipping industry, has pushed back against suggestions (see 8:03am update) that P&O Ferries’ agency staff won’t be up to snuff.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
I’m content and very confident that P&O will have put procedures in place to ensure that the individuals that are going to be in control of those vessels will be familiar with the ships, familiar with the systems and will be competent and qualified to operate those vessels in a safe manner.
Glitches strike again as nickel hits down limit
It’s been yet another glitchy start for nickel trading as the London Metal Exchange tries to unwind last week’s short squeeze.
The 145-year-old exchange set a down limit of 12pc to $39,915 a ton today, which was hit immediately as trading opened.
However, some trades once again appear to have gone through below that price limit – with three trading at $36,865 a ton.
The LME, which is reeling from a severe short squeeze last Monday that forced some traders to seek emergency loans, has gradually widened the amount the nickel price is allowed to move each day.
Prices are now getting close to those in Shanghai, which has been open throughout and where nickel currently changes hands at about $35,000 a ton.
Ofcom revokes Russia Today’s broadcast licence
Ofcom has revoked RT (aka Russia Today’s) licence to broadcast in the UK, citing concerns over impartiality breaches.
The regulator said:
Today’s decision comes amid 29 ongoing investigations by Ofcom into the due impartiality of RT’s news and current affairs coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We consider the volume and potentially serious nature of the issues raised within such a short period to be of great concern – especially given RT’s compliance history, which has seen the channel fined £200,000 for previous due impartiality breaches.
The station is already off-air in the UK as a result of sanctions introduced in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
We have concluded that we cannot be satisfied that RT can be a responsible broadcaster in the current circumstances. Ofcom is therefore revoking RT’s licence to broadcast with immediate effect.
Its chief executive Melanie Dawes added:
Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high.
‘Serious safety concerns’ over agency hires
Mark Dickinson from Nautilus International (see 7:42am update), also said there are “serious safety concerns” over P&O Ferries’ move to replace its staff with agency workers.
There are serious safety concerns, which is why the company cannot reintroduce services with the lower-paid agency crew that they’ve recruited via this company called International Ferry Management of Malta.
The union boss said the Maritime Coastguard Agency must be “absolutely clear and confident that those new crew, unfamiliar with the vessels, unfamiliar with the routes, with the berths”.
This is an intensely worrying situation. We’ve written to the Maritime Coastguard Agency and we hope and we pray that they will do their job. I know they will. They will do their job and make sure the ships are safe.
Heappey: Government was in the dark about P&O
Here’s some more comments from Armed Forces Minister James Heappey’s Sky News interview, via my colleague Mason Boycott-Owen.
The MP called the sackings “disgraceful”, but suggested the Government did not know they were looming:
As far as I know from colleagues around Government, I don’t think we got much more notice than the employees of P&O did.
My great friend the Transport Minister was in the Commons yesterday and I could see from the expression on his face just how angry he was at the way P&O had handled this.
Most importantly for the people who were fired, but actually it’s just shoddy to do that and not give the Department for Transport any notice that you’re going to do it, as they would have wanted to have been involved in a discussion with P&O to do things differently.
Despite his strong words, the minister suggested officials may limited in how much they can do for the workers who have lost their jobs:
[DfT] are seeing what they can do to try and make the situation better but the reality is that P&O has made a commercial decision and as much as we disagree with it, I fear for those workers, they’ve been badly let down by their employer.
Protest set to kickoff at noon
Three demonstrations are planned today according to the Rail & Maritime Union, which describes Thursday’s events as a “jobs massacre”.
- 12pm at Dover
- 12pm at Hull
- 1pm at Liverpool
Union: We are preparing legal action
Mark Dickinson from union Nautilus International said his organisation is making preparations for legal action against P&O Ferries, alongside the RMT union.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said:
- The company is duty bound to consult… with the trade unions
- We have collective bargaining agreements for all the affected seafarers, all the vessels on all the routes
- We’ve worked with this company for decades through difficult times and through the good times
- This is clearly illegal
Minister: P&O treatment of staff ‘horrendous’
Speaking on Sky News, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has said P&O’s actions yesterday were an “absolutely horrendous way to treat their staff”.
Asked whether the Treasury can reclaim the furlough money given to P&O, reportedly roughly £10m in total, he said:
I don’t know. It sounds like exactly the type of thing that if I were the Treasury I would be asking for. But I don’t know exactly how these things work I’m afraid, I’m sorry.
Agenda: Protests brewing over P&O
Good morning. Demonstrations are planned against the brutal sacking of 800 P&O workers, with events planned in Dover, Hull and Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Oil prices are climbing again, with Brent breaking close to $110 a barrel, amid doubts over talks between Russia and Ukraine. Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 is set to build on yesterday’s gains with a moderate rise at the open.
5 things to start your day
1) The sheikh, the unions and the battle for P&O Ferries Dubai’s ruler squares up to RMT as staff at company owned by his government are forced off vessels by security
2) Bank warns of 10pc inflation risk after third interest rate rise Monetary Policy Committee moves to tackle inflation despite Ukraine war jeopardising growth
3) TM Lewin collapses for second time in two years Nearly 50 jobs at risk as administrators seek buyers for the business
4) AstraZeneca set to abandon push for US vaccine approval The company has been in talks with US regulators for months
5) Banks ‘losing patience’ after Hong Kong’s zero-Covid policy fails Financial hub’s chief Carrie Lam hints at a rethink of strict quarantine rules
What happened overnight
Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Friday after Wall Street extended a rally into a third day and oil prices pushed higher. Tokyo and Sydney advanced while Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul declined.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng wavered after barrelling higher for two days as Chinese leaders promised to provide more support for the economy and markets, suggesting Beijing might temper its crackdowns on technology and real estate companies.
The Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.3pc to 3,205.90.
Coming up today
- Corporate: ContourGlobal, Essentra (full-year); JD Wetherspoon (interim); Investec (trading update)
- Economics: Labour cost (EU)