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Cruise giant Carnival UK accused of planning to lay off and rehire 900 crew members


  • By Faarea Masud
  • Economic journalist

A major cruise line is accused of planning to fire more than 900 of its staff if they do not accept new terms and conditions.

Carnival UK, owner of P&O Cruises and Cunard, informed authorities of the “firing and rehiring” plan a day after entering into negotiations with union members.

The Nautilus union said it showed the cruise company had “no real intention of engaging” in meaningful negotiations.

Carnival UK said it was “categorically not making any redundancies”.

Personnel who could be affected include 919 crew members working on 10 ships, including the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary 2.

Last year, a separate company, P&O Ferries, became embroiled in a dispute following the dismissal of 800 of its workers by its owner DP World. The company sacked staff without notice, replacing them with foreign agency workers who were paid less than the UK minimum wage.

Later, the company boss admitted that these dismissals were illegal.

Under UK law, employers planning to make 20 or more employees redundant over a 90-day period must first consult staff and speak to union representatives.

In this case, Nautilus, which represents hundreds of potentially affected people, accuses Carnival UK of entering into negotiations over next year’s pay and working conditions without openly revealing its fallback position that they were considering a plan to lay off workers. if the talks failed.

It is currently not illegal to fire and then rehire staff, provided that proper procedures are followed.

Nautilus said Carnival informed officials it was considering layoffs, submitting what is known as an HR1 form, just a day after it began negotiations with the union over reducing workers’ hours and wages.

The union did not learn of this notification until a week later.

HR1 includes the following statement: “Dismissal and re-employment may be considered if agreement cannot be reached on new terms. »

Nautilus said the move suggested Carnival “never intended to ‘meaningfully negotiate’.”

Carnival UK said: “We will categorically not be making any redundancies and will not be laying off or rehiring any staff. In fact, we have significantly increased our workforce across our entire fleet. »

He added: “This is an annual salary review process with our maritime officers on board our ships which will ensure alignment. This will enable our staff to form the right teams in our fleet and attract and retain talent to work on our ships.”

The union said the cruise line wanted to in effect “impose a 20% reduction in its working days”, which equated to a reduction from 243 working days per year to 200 days, as well as a reduction in income .

He said the changes were enforced and were “non-negotiable”, which upset members, especially as it appeared the company was “taking away flexibility” in terms of when work could be carried out.

Nautilus wrote to the company asking it to withdraw the “firing and rehiring” threat and engage in meaningful negotiations.

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said history was “repeating itself”.

“The lives of hundreds more seafarers are once again being turned upside down by bad bosses who know they can get away with it,” she said, adding that ministers have ignored “warning after warning” according to which this would happen again without changes to labor law.

Nautilus senior national organizer Garry Elliot called on the Government to learn lessons from last year’s P&O Ferries scandal and “ban the coercive practice of firing and rehiring”.

He added: “Employers cannot be allowed to treat their employees with contempt and forcefulness by fundamentally changing the terms and conditions by playing with the livelihood of their employees. »

But Paul Nowak, general secretary of the union’s umbrella body the TUC, said ministers had failed to stop workers being “treated as disposable labour”.

The government went back on its promise to present a bill strengthening workers’ rights, he said.

The BBC has contacted the government for comment.

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