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Unfair dismissal and discrimination claim launched by P&O Ferries chef

After being dismissed for what he claims was unfair dismissal, racial discrimination, and harassment a former P&O Ferries chef is taking the company to employment tribunal.

Mr John Lansdown was one of the 800 workers who were last month dismissed from P&O ferries without being given one month’s notice. He had been working for the company for more than 20 years.

After dismissing 800 employees P&O Ferries brought in crew from overseas, all of whom will be paid below the UK minimum wage.

There are both criminal and civil investigations being carried out against the company by the Insolvency Service.

Mr Lansdown’s claim, which was televised by the BBC, accuses the ferry operator of unfair treatment because he is British and eligible to receive the national living wage.

He claims that his redundancy was a sham as his position as chef was still needed. Additionally, no fair selection process had taken place.

Mr Lansdown seeks compensation for himself to include damages of up to £76m. He said that he would be using the money to create a new trust. 

This new trust would campaign for better wages and more protection for seafarers. It would also aim to outlaw ‘fire and hire’ practices taking place in the UK.

Talking to the BBC, he said that the appeal and claim were not only about himself. It included the other 799 seafaring employees who had lost their livelihoods and their way of life. They had also lost their homes for six months of the year. His claim is all about ‘the bigger picture.’

At the time of the dismissal, Mr Lansdown was working on the Pride of Canterbury ship. Because he was notified out of the blue he was forced to leave his personal effects behind. He had no prior consultation regarding his redundancy.

Security staff carrying handcuffs and wearing balaclavas boarded the ship to forcibly remove those workers who refused to leave, said Mr Lansdown.

Mr Lansdown told the tribunal that he was devastated by the brutal summary dismissal after such a long career with the company. The manner in which he was dismissed felt much like harassment.

He accuses P&O Ferries of violating his dignity, as well as creating a hostile, intimidating, and degrading environment which was humiliating to work in.

P&O Ferries denied that their staff had boarded the ship wearing balaclavas. They also stated that no one was directed to use handcuffs or use force.

A spokesperson for P&O Ferries said that all the staff ‘remained professional, sympathetic and calm in a challenging situation.’ The staff had done their best to ensure the safety of all the people on board. The spokesperson assured the BBC that there had been no harassment at any time.

Previously P&O Ferries has stated that all 800 employees who had been made redundant would be offered £36m compensation in total. About 40 staff members would receive over £100,000 each.

Mr Lansdown is thought to be the only employee to formerly waive his rights to his pay out and begin legal action against the company.

P&O Ferries was given the opportunity last week of reinstating their employees. However, the CEO of P&O stated that if they did reinstate the 800 employees it would undoubtedly cause the company to collapse.

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