P&O Ferries: Mayor of Mid and East Antrim calls for urgent meeting with company

Mid and East Antrim Council is seeking urgent discussions with P&O after the ferry company’s controversial move to axe 800 jobs

The Mayor , Councillor William McCaughey, said he was deeply shocked by yesterday’s development, adding that council officers are on-hand to support affected staff.

The Mayor said: “Like many, I was stunned by P&O’s announcement and the immediacy of it. My thoughts, first and foremost, are with the workers whose lives have been turned upside down. This council stands firmly with them and we will do everything we can to help, advise and signpost them to vital assistance.

“We are planning to speak with P&O senior management in the incoming days regarding this situation and to understand the firm’s immediate plans. P&O provides a vital service within our borough and across Northern Ireland, and we will continue to work closely with them in the days and weeks ahead.

A vessel docked in Larne Harbour yesterday.  Photo: Pacemaker Press
A vessel docked in Larne Harbour yesterday.  Photo: Pacemaker Press
A vessel docked in Larne Harbour yesterday. Photo: Pacemaker Press

“While we welcome assurances that no staff at the Port of Larne will lose their jobs, we must also ensure that this vital gateway and the supply routes into and out of Northern Ireland are protected, and that the impact on our local businesses is minimal.”

Meanwhile, East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson has spoken with the chief executive of P&O regarding the decisions the company has made in respect of its shipping operations in Larne and throughout the UK.

Mr Wilson said: “I expressed my concern at the manner in which the staff, who are to be made redundant, have been treated. I have been assured by the company that staff will be compensated for the lack of notice of termination.”

His party colleague Gordon Lyons voiced concerned about the impact of the decision on the wider economy too.

Mr Lyons, who is also the Economy Minister, said: “ The company have informed us that it will be another week before ships can operate from Larne Port. Whilst customers have been directed to Belfast Port in the short term, they will not have the capacity to ramp up operations in a sufficient manner to accommodate demand.

“With over half of all our freight moving through Larne Port, this announcement will also cause supply problems for companies and supermarkets in Northern Ireland, as well as those firms based here who sell to GB.”

The UK Government has been urged to take measures to minimise the impact of the company’s decision.

East Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said: “Given the importance of our North Channel ferry routes I would call on the Secretary of State and the UK Transport Secretary to step in to ensure that the vital Larne Cairnryan ferry service continues and that staff are fairly treated. HMG at the highest level needs to engage with P&O Ferries and their parent company DP World to ensure the vital link between GB and NI continues.

“There is also an urgent need to clarify the status of staff at both the Port of Larne and those at the Port of Cairnryan.”

Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon MLA commented: “This is a developing situation and officials are working on a cross-departmental basis to assess any local impacts, especially for supply chains, and are keeping in close contact with their counterparts in the Department of Transport in London.

“With the Economy Minister, I am calling on the Secretary of State for Transport to take every possible step to save jobs and to maintain connectivity for passengers and freight on Irish Sea routes.”

Transport union RMT has also called on P&O to protect jobs. RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said the situation was “deeply disturbing”.

Yesterday morning (Thursday) P&O stated that it was halting all crossings and calling all ships to ‘come alongside’ ahead of the company announcement, which confirmed mass redundancies.

The company added: “Today we’ve announced changes to P&O Ferries. While we make these changes, many of our services will not be running over the next few days. Please visit our website for information.”

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