Dubai based billionaires ravage British company

Dubai based billionaires ravage British company
Former P&O staff and RMT members block the road leading to the Port of Dover in response to the 800 redundancies announced by P&O Ferries. Credit: PA

Flag of inconvenience social dumping fire and rehire

ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies, the London-based think tank set out proposals and a course of action that will secure the jobs and livelihoods of the sacked P&O workers. This requires immediate legislative changes and a recognition of the nefarious influences that have been allowed to penetrate the British economy and obtain control over the island’s vital industries.

P&O Ferries have without warning sacked 800 employees, attempting to replace them with agency workers on less pay and worse terms and conditions. This vital service, and once proud company, connecting mainland Great Britain to Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the European continent is owned by Dubai Ports World, managed by Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, a member of the United Arab Emirates leading families. DP World have now broken the promises they made on acquiring P&O Ferries. They had pledged that there will be no job losses, and vowed to protect the cross-channel services, and maintain the pensions of its employees. DP World’s word has not been kept. P&O’s Dubai-based billionaire owners are attempting to conduct a race to the bottom and practice social dumping.

It is deeply regretful that such a prestigious British company, once a hallmark of the United Kingdom’s maritime strength, trade, and prosperity, is now owned by a regime notorious for human rights abuses and exploitation of its own workforce.

– Robert Oulds, Executive Director of ImpACT

DP World is, via a holding company, owned by the United Arab Emirate’s Government. Ultimate responsibility rests with the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

In an underhand move and manipulation of maritime legislation the owners registered the P&O fleet in Cyprus. This allowed them to believe they could dismiss the workers, making them redundant, but still replacing them with agency workers on flexible and insecure terms. Under UK law it's not possible to make people redundant unless the role no longer exists. They can only do this because they're operating under EU law.

The cold sacking by video link and using security guards to escort hardworking employees forcibly and inhumanely off their ships in which they had served in some cases for decades is an egregious afront to business ethics. Similarly, consumers have also been badly let down.

Trade has already been harmed by the worldwide backlog and poor supply of seagoing transports and cargo containers, leading to cost push inflationary pressures cascading through the economy. DP World’s decision to suspend P&O’s ferry services, shutting cross channel routes from British to continental European ports, can only further harm hard-pressed businesses and consumers alike. Passengers and haulers have been denied passage on already booked, but now cancelled services. This will not only damage a once respected brand but will also lead to compensation claims that will deepen the company’s problems.

Cancelling services until such time as agency workers have been appointed is, for a country like the United Kingdom which relies on trade, a threat to national security. DP World’s suspension amounts to economic blackmail against Britain which should not be tolerated. Furthermore, DP World’s decision must be reversed, and other operators should be prevented from following similar measures.

ImpACT International recommends:

  1. Inquiry:
    1. The UK Government should establish an official judge led inquiry into how DP World have rundown P&O Ferries.
    2. The owners should be compelled to give and provide evidence as requested.
    3. Should it be found that the company has been unnecessarily burdened with debt, its foreign owners should be held liable.
  2. Legacy European Union laws:
    1. There must be an immediate and retrospective revocation of leftover EU rules that have enabled P&O’s immoral owners to make their workers redundant.
    2. British rules must take precedence. Under UK law redundancy can only legally take place following an extensive period of consultation with employees and their union representatives. Unceremoniously sacking them can be overturned at an employment tribunal. Furthermore, redundancy can only take place if the role and its function has been deleted; any failure to respect those rules can result in substantial unfair dismissal claims.
  3. Help for workers:
    1. Legal aid should be provided to assist the workers and their trade union representatives to pursue their claims.
    2. Diplomatic pressure backed by punitive economic measures must be launched against the UAE to get them to reverse their decision.
    3. The move by DP World should be legally reversed through legislation.
    4. The Government must immediately invest in the dismissed workers training and reskilling to reassure the staff that their futures are assured pending the outcome of these legislative changes. This can be funded by a windfall tax on DP World and other assets in which the UAE ruling elite have interests.
  4. Help for passengers
    1. The Government should aid consumer groups to launch an information campaign to inform passengers that they may be able to claim compensation under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
    2. British authorities should also coordinate with other operators to provide assistance to haulers and passengers as to other services that they can use.
    3. Aid should be provided to service users that have been inconvenienced and suffered loss through DP World’s actions. This should be recovered from the UAE based company.
    4. Authorities should assist other ferry companies to provide more services to prevent any backlog from emerging. Lorry parks and the M20 motorway leading to the port at Dover need to be provided with sustenance for lorry drivers should substantial queues emerge.
  5. Blacklist DP World and the UAE:
    1. If DP World will not immediately undertake to reverse their decision P&O should be stripped from them, nationalised, and returned to the private sector after being transferred to British owners.
    2. Suspension of further investment from UAE associated sources must be implemented until such time as DP World reverse their decision.
    3. Revoke DP World and P&O Ferries' licenses to operate ferry services in the UK until such time as the workers are reinstated.
  6. Take back control:
    1. Ships regularly operating out of British ports should be registered in the UK and operate under UK law.
    2. An asset register of important infrastructure should be established.
    3. Control and management of these identified companies and facilities shall be conducted by British based companies and subject to a legally mandated code of conduct to abide by UK law and legally obliged to keep services and public utilities properly maintained and running.

Robert Oulds, Executive Director of ImpACT states that, “The United Arab Emirates is attacking the economic interests of working people in the United Kingdom. It is deeply regretful that such a prestigious British company, once a hallmark of the United Kingdom’s maritime strength, trade, and prosperity, is now owned by a regime notorious for human rights abuses and exploitation of its own workforce. Many of which are themselves the victims of social dumping. It is shameful that their economic model, that should have no place in the twentieth century, is still being practiced in the UAE and is even being exported to the UK. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson should not allow such bullying of British workers.”

Notes to Editors

  • Click below for further information on human rights and labour abuses in the UAE:

ImpACT International | “They told us they hated black Africans”: UAE authorities detain, torture, and deport over 800 migrant workers (


ImpACT International | UAE: Vulnerable 'AJAD Facilities Management' employees denied their rights (


ImpACT International | Educationwashing: Cambridge University and the UAE's use of education to obscure human rights problems (

Regretfully the list of abuses has grown yet again.


‘We don’t want to die in this desert’: Nepali migrant workers strand...

Following allegations made by Nepalese workers employed by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), London-based think tank ImpACT International for Human...

ImpACT urges UNHRC to sanction inhumane actions against migrant worke...

Migrant workers are stranded in the Gulf countries during the COVID-19 pandemic without adequate funds or aid from their employers

New study: UAE ISPs violate users' privacy

Indifferent to basic human rights and with no state oversight, the main internet service providers (ISPs) in the United Arab Emirates violate the privacy...