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P&O Ferries boss admitted that decision to sack 800 workers last week broke the law

   News / 25 Mar 2022

Published: 25 March 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite yesterday admitted that a decision to sack 800 workers last week without notice broke the law. He told The Transport Committee there was "absolutely no doubt" that under UK employment law the firm was required to consult unions before making the mass cuts. However, he said no union would have accepted the plan and it was easier to compensate workers "in full" instead. Huw Merriman, the Conservative chair of the committee urged him to resign. "It's untenable to come to parliament and say you decided to break the law, you have no regrets," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One. The sackings sparked outrage after it emerged staff will be replaced by foreign agency workers paid less than the minimum wage. Hebblethwaite also confirmed this to MPs, saying the average hourly rate for new crewmembers would be £5.50 per hour. The UK minimum wage for people aged 23 and over will be £9.50 from 1st April. Hebblethwaite claimed, however, that the wage is in line with international maritime standard and consistent with "models throughout the globe and our competitors". By sacking its crews and taking on agency staff instead, he said the business would cut its wage bill in half. Hebblethwaite’s base salary with P&O is £325,000 a year.  
 
Lord (Michael) Grade has been appointed as the new chairman of Ofcom. An experienced media man, Grade joined in 1973, then the BBC in the summer of 1984. He was made controller of BBC One later that year, before going on to other senior positions at the UK’s major broadcasters, including being chief executive of Channel 4 between 1988 and 1997. He is also co-founder of GradeLinnit, a theatrical production company, and has also served as chairman of Ocado, First Leisure Corporation, Camelot, the Charity Fundraising Regulator and Bradford’s Media Museum. He has also been a member of the former Press Complaints Commission and a trustee of the Science Museum. Grade currently sits as a Conservative peer in the House of Lords after being appointed by David Cameron in 2011.
 
The Department for Transport (DfT) says there will be 300,000 electric vehicle charging points by 2030 under government plans and operators will have to ensure drivers can compare prices, pay by contactless card, and have a 99% reliability rate. They will also have to provide real-time data for customers to check the status of chargepoints and apps for customers to find the nearest available one. The RAC however said the roll out is not fast enough. The chargepoint target "might sound impressive", the motoring organisation said, but it is "not going to be sufficient" for growing demand. The UK currently has 30,000 public electric vehicle charging points. The DfT responded by saying the number of chargepoints by the end of the decade would be the equivalent to almost five times the number of fuel pumps today.
 
The Bank of England (BoE) is to outline a new regulatory framework for the crypto market to prevent the assets from threatening the broader stability of financial markets. The Central Bank’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) said the role of prudential and market integrity regulators should be expanded and their coordination increased to encompass the $1.7tn (£1.3tn) crypto market, which is now larger than the $1.2tn market of sub-prime mortgages that triggered the global financial crash in 2008. "Enhanced regulatory and law enforcement frameworks are needed, both domestically and at a global level," the BoE committee said in minutes of its meetings on 9 March and 18 March, released yesterday. The FPC will make recommendations to the Treasury on adapting the remit for supervising crypto holdings, many of which are beyond the scope of the Financial Conduct Authority.
 
UK retail sales fell 0.3% in February, a fall the Office for National Statisticssaid may be linked to higher spending in pubs and restaurants as confidence increased in going out. There were especially large falls in alcohol and tobacco store sales. Online sales volumes also fell by 4.8% over the month following strong growth in December and January. February's unexpected fall followed a 1.9% rise in January.
 
Insurance market Lloyd’s of London has warned the Ukraine war will be a “major claim” this year. The group did not put a figure on its warning, but said it is in “close dialogue” with market partners to gauge the scale of their exposure to Ukraine and the impact of Russia’s invasion. However, Lloyds stressed that direct and indirect claims are “expected to fall within manageable tolerances and will not create solvency challenges”. The comments came as Lloyd’s revealed it swung out of the red last year, with pre-tax profits of £2.3 billion against losses of £900 million in 2020. The covid pandemic in 2020 marked Lloyds’ most costly single event on record and sent it tumbling to its worst underwriting result for three years.
 
Ofgem launched an investigation into National Grid yesterday. It will probe whether the company's transmission operation breached its obligations over the condition of the Harker substation in Cumbria, and delayed connecting power generation to the site. The energy sector regulator said it was investigating whether National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) breached its duty under the Electricity Act 1989 to develop and maintain its network, and to facilitate competition in power supply and generation.
 
Shell says it will invest up to £25bn in Britain’s energy systems over the next decade, gearing spending towards low and zero-carbon products and services, including technologies such as offshore wind and renewable hydrogen. Shell has committed to reaching net carbon emissions by 2050 across its businesses, in line with government targets.
 
The CEO of McColl's, Jonathan Miller, stepped down yesterday, weeks after the cash-strapped convenience store chain warned of lower annual profit, sending its shares tumbling 14%.
 
A teenage hacker has been accused of making more than £10m as a leader in an international cyber gang while his father thought he was playing computer games. Cybersecurity researchers said the 6-year-old from Oxford was the mastermind as City of London Police confirmed that seven suspects, aged 16 to 21, had been arrested. The teen, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is autistic and attends a special school in Oxford.
 
A funeral plan provider with 45,000 customers in the UK has collapsed, throwing contracts into doubt and raising concern over refunds. Safe Handshad already signalled its intention to stop operating, but its collapse means pre-bought funerals may not be honoured, the BBC reports.
 
Morrisons' £7.1bn takeover by private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice(CD&R) could lead to higher petrol prices in more than 100 places because of overlap between the two groups' petrol stations, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says. CD&R owns the Motor Fuel Group, the largest independent operator of petrol stations in the UK, which has 921 petrol stations under brands such as Esso and BP. Morrisons meanwhile operates 339 petrol stations, most of which are next to its supermarkets. The CMA said both companies have petrol forecourts in 121 local areas where they face limited competition. The competition watchdog has given CD&R five days to come up with proposals to address its concerns and said if this did not happen it would start a lengthy phase 2 probe.
 
Bayer AG has reached an $80 million settlement with Ohio to resolve environmental damage allegedly caused by polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, made by the company's Monsanto business. The funds from the German company, which did not admit liability, will be used for environmental cleanup, the attorney general said. Monsanto was acquired by Bayer for $63 billion in 2018, but insists it never manufactured PCBs in Ohio or discharged them into Ohio waterways. PCBs were once used widely to insulate electrical equipment, and were used in carbonless copy paper, caulking, floor finish and paint. They were outlawed by the U.S. government in 1979 after being linked to cancer. Bayer also reached a $648 million proposed class action settlement with about 2,500 cities and other local governments last week, and faces personal injury cases stemming from PCB exposure. Two separate juries last year awarded a combined $247 million in damages stemming from exposure in a school in Washington state. Bayer said the evidence showed the plaintiffs were not exposed to unsafe levels of PCBs and the company said it planned to appeal both verdicts.
 
The cost of living in Russia is surging according to official figures. The BBCsays they show the price of some household staples - such as sugar - have jumped by as much as 14% over the past week. The has fallen sharply around 22% since the Ukraine war began which has pushed up the cost of importing goods. Meanwhile, the Russian stock market resumed trading yesterday after a month-long hiatus, with the majority of shares rising.  The benchmark Moexindex was up by around 5.6% at midday in Moscow. Analysts said a government plan to buy billions of dollars’ worth of Russian shares was supporting the market. Bans on trade with foreigners and on short-selling remain in place.
 
Fewer workers sought jobless benefits in the US last week than at any time since 1969. Just 187,000 people filed for unemployment, the Labor Department reported. That was down roughly 28,000 from the previous week.
 
60-year-old Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon will perform at the major US music festival Lollapalooza alongside the likes of Dua Lipa and Metallicain July. He is a dance music DJ outside his day job, which netted him a $35m salary last year. Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the gig, the BBCsays.


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