LEADING Thurrock councillors have again rattled their sabres and condemned the actions of the DP World-controlled P&O Ferries company which has found itself under a barrage of criticism after sacking 800 workers in a bid to save money.
At the weekend Thurrock Council issued a formal statement says its cabinet members had met and issued a stern warning to DP World that as it had overstepped expected standards of industrial relations, the council was considering its relationship with the company, particularly in respect to the recently created Thames Freeport – in which DP World is a major stakeholder.
The legitimacy of the weekend’s ‘official’ cabinet meeting remains in question and it is possible that the council itself sidestepped its own constitution with an unannounced gathering of senior figures, but this evening (Wednesday, 23 February) its members rubber-stamped their statement.
After a formal meeting of the cabinet, the first meeting held in the council’s new multi-million pound civic office extension, another statement was issued which reads: “Thurrock Council remains determined to seize the unique opportunity the Thames Freeport unlocks to level-up the borough’s communities but calls upon it to pause work on its governance arrangements in light of recent events and the Government’s review of all contracts with P&O Ferries and DP World.
“As a result of the uncertainty created by the recent actions of P&O Ferries and their parent company DP World, Thurrock Council’s cabinet have agreed to receive a further report outlining the future relationship between the Freeport and its partners. Cabinet also agreed to call upon Thames Freeport to pause finalising its formal governance arrangements which remain under discussion.”
Council leader Cllr Rob Gledhill added: “Recent events directly impacting 800 employees from P&O Ferries are entirely unjustifiable. I will be writing to Thames Freeport to seek unequivocal assurances that ensure all employment in this borough and across Thames Freeport is undertaken with full regard to UK employment law and that any private sector organisation who is a partner in the Thames Freeport categorically complies.
“The potential for the council to retain an additional £300m from business rates is truly game changing. It will enable investment in projects to accelerate levelling-up outcomes including enhanced public transport and infrastructure, new health, wellbeing and cultural facilities, access for local residents to thousands of new high quality jobs, and supporting our young people through investment in community-based youth programmes.
“This however will not be at the expense of the rights of British workers up and down the country now or in the future.
“In the meantime, we will continue to do all we can to make the Thames Freeport happen to benefit local residents and businesses.”
Critics of the council have highlighted its own recent record of industrial relations, which currently includes axing more than 200 existing jobs (as part of a 500 post reduction in council staff) and last year’s strike by environmental service workers which saw rubbish piled in the streets of the borough in a dispute which the council ulimateley backtracked from under public pressure.