Cruise giant Carnival UK accused of plan to fire and rehire 900 crew

A leading cruise ship company is being accused of a plan to fire more than 900 staff members if they do not accept new terms and conditions for their job.

Carnival UK, owner of P&O Cruises and Cunard, notified authorities of the “fire and rehire” plan one day after beginning talks with union members.

The Nautilus union said it showed the cruise firm had “no real intention to engage” in meaningful negotiations.

Carnival UK said it was “not making any redundancies”.

It comes after a separate company, P&O Ferries, last year became embroiled in a dispute over the sacking of 800 of its workers by its owner DP World. The firm sacked staff without notice, replacing them with foreign agency workers who were paid less than the UK minimum wage.

Nautilus, which represents hundreds of those potentially affected, said Carnival UK has notified authorities in the UK and Bermuda of its intention to change employment terms and conditions for 919 crew across 10 vessels.

The union said the changes would affect crew on P&O Cruises as well as those working on ships such at the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary 2.

In a statement, Nautilus referred to Form HR1, a document outlining a company’s redundancy plans that is submitted to the UK government.

“Negotiations with the union opened on November 14 but the union was only notified of the HR1 on the evening of November 22,” it said, adding that Carnival has written: “Dismissal and re-engagement may be considered if agreement cannot be reached on new terms.”

Nautilus said the move suggested “that the employer never had any intention of ‘meaningful negotiation'”.

Carnival UK said: “We are categorically not making any redundancies and we will not dismiss and re-engage staff. In fact we have significantly increased our headcount across our fleet.”

It added: “This is an annual pay review process with our maritime officers onboard our ships which will ensure alignment. This will empower our staff, deliver the right teams across our fleet and attract and retain talent to work on our ships.”

The union said the cruise company effectively “wants to enforce a cut in 20% of their working days”, which amounts to a drop from 243 days worked per year, to 200 days, leading to a drop in income.

It said changes were being enforced and were “not negotiable”, leaving members upset, especially as it seemed that the company were “taking away flexibility” in terms of when the work could be done.

Nautilus has written to the company calling for it to withdraw the threat of “fire and rehire”, and engage in meaningful negotiations.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said history was “repeating itself”.

“The lives of hundreds more seafarers are once again being upended by bad bosses who know they can get away with it”, she said. adding ministers have ignored “warning after warning” that this would happen again without changes in employment law.

Nautilus’s senior national organiser Garry Elliot called on the government to learn lessons from last year’s P&O Ferries scandal “and outlaw the coercive practice of fire and rehire”. He added: “Employers cannot be allowed to treat their employees with contempt and force through fundamental changes to terms and conditions by playing with their employees’ livelihoods.”

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