More than just a number

Throughout my 47 or so years of working life I’ve seen some pretty callous behaviour by large employers towards their workforce – on the wrong side of it more times than I care to remember and on the other side of the coin having to go through redundancy procedure with colleagues, some of whom I had decades of history with.

In newspapers it’s just a fact of life, albeit one that I have never completely reconciled myself with, that people, some very talented people, are treated as disposable assets and since the early 1990s, any position I have taken has been in the knowledge that from the moment your bum makes contact with your chair the clock is ticking.

But never have I witnessed an employer behave quite so outrageously as P&O Ferries last week when in a move right out of Victorian times they sacked 800 workers without notice, telling them to disembark from ships immediately while their cheaper replacements were waiting to board and carry on as if nothing had happened.

But surely there’s a law against that, I hear you say, and you would be right.

As a company bound by British employment law, the first step is to inform the workforce and relevant trade union that jobs may be at risk and why. This signals the beginning of a consultation period, a purely cosmetic exercise, but compulsory all the same even if it is just dragging out the inevitable.

P&O has not only completely bypassed the legal procedure, including failing to inform the government that hundred of jobs were at risk, the company has also disregarded one of the most fundamental aspects of redundancy – it is the position, not just the person that becomes redundant and so the job has to be disappearing to justify it. Which means that as things stand 800 people would appear to have a strong case for wrongful dismissal – something P&O will most definitely be aware of.

Yet they have gone ahead anyway, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Companies of that size don’t make mistakes like that so something else is going on here. But whatever they are trying to pull, it’s a vile and disgraceful way to treat people, which doesn’t surprise me, but will never be acceptable.

Hundreds of livelihoods resting on decisions made by executives over Bourbon biscuits and coffee across a boardroom table.

Of course, sometimes tough decisions have to be made, but to do it so disrespectfully is obscene.

……………………………….

Speaking of obscene, a 15-year old Hackney girl is rightly suing the Metropolitan Police after she was removed from an exam and strip searched at her school while wrongly suspected of carrying drugs.

Scotland Yard has apologised after an investigation found that the search in December 2020 was unjustified and that racism was likely to have been a factor.

Yes, she’s black. Of course she is. Can you really see that happening to a white girl?

And what on earth was the school thinking?

This is more than a few bad apples in the force – the roots are rotten.

The poor kid is traumatised. Sorry doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Stupid TV quiz answers of the week

Tipping Point:

Q: The Treaty of Munich was signed in which European country?

A: Munich?

Lightning:

Q: The name of the film starring Channing Tatum is Magic…

A: Moments

The Chase:

Q: Which river joins the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh?

A: The Danube

Q: Which actress starred in the film What Lies Beneath?

A: Anthony Hopkins

Q: Whose funeral in 1806 saw an illustration used in a newspaper for the first time?

A: Margaret Thatcher

Edward Case

Columnist