The prime minister has said P&O Ferries’ move to sack almost 800 workers without notice last week appears to have broken UK employment law.
The firm could face fines “running into millions of pounds” if found guilty, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons on Wednesday (March 23).
Johnson said: “Under section 194 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations Act of 1992, it looks to me as though the company concerned has broken the law.
“And we will be taking action therefore, and we will be encouraging workers themselves to take action under the 1996 Employment Rights Act.”
The PM also said the government will take steps to protect mariners working in UK waters and “ensure they all paid the living wage”.
P&O Ferries’ chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, is due to appear at a meeting of the Department for Transport (DfT) and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) joint committee on Thursday (March 24).
The committee chairs Huw Merriman and Darren Jones want to ask him to explain the decision to carry out the sackings with no notice and to ascertain whether the action was legal.
Hebblethwaite has already told ministers that the sackings were a “last resort” to save the company.
The staff made redundant will be offered a total of £36.5 million. Some employees are set to get 91 weeks’ pay and the chance of new employment, and no employee would receive less than £15,000.
The firm, owned by Dubai-based DP World, denied breaking the law when workers were abruptly dismissed last week.