Asshole Hall of Fame

Inductees Fifty-Nine: The Owners and Senior Leadership at P&O

Alright. It’s been awhile, eh?

Seriously, it’s been over a year since I last posted anything on here, but something moved me to add to the Asshole Hall of Fame. Obviously there are many, many contenders who will get inducted in the coming weeks and months – Boris Johnson, JK Rowling, Vladimir Putin – but last week something in the UK happened that pissed me off in a very specific way.

For my US Readers, here’s a little synopsis courtesy of the NY Times.

A British ferry company laid off 800 people with immediate effect on Thursday, many of them over video, leading to international travel disruptions and condemnation by government officials over its plan to cut service and replace staff with cheaper labor.

Now, I know that many of my fellow US citizens think of Europe as a great place for workers. And in some European countries, that’s true! But England is one of the works places in Europe for workers. Seriously! I’m not kidding! No really, it sucks! But we do have like five weeks of mandated vacation leave (and free basic healthcare that isn’t tied to our employment) so that’s pretty sweet. There are ostensibly worker protections, thought they don’t kick in until two years into a job (we felt that one hard a couple of years ago).

In England, if a company is going to lay off more than a few people (known as making them redundant), they are SUPPOSED to enter into consultancy to see if there are other jobs available, other options or perhaps ways to prevent some of the lay-offs. P&O apparently didn’t do that. They told everyone to come to work, played a video message, and then seem to have had not vastly underpaid, unwitting replacement workers standing by. The owners claim financial hardship has led them to this point, but the company literally paid out millions in dividends in the middle of a pandemic.

In addition to being an example of just utterly shitty corporate practices, this is a great example of why companies that provide public services like transportation should generally not be privately owned. Obviously governments can (and do) screw things up all the time, but at least there is some opportunity to hold them accountable. Private companies aren’t accountable to the end users of their services or to their employees – they’re only interested in profit. And the market doesn’t magically lead companies to treat their employees well or even offer a quality service to their customers. If they’re the only game in town, we’re stuck with them. It’s also a great example of why we need much stronger protections for workers, and companies need to be held accountable when they violate existing protections.

So welcome to the Asshole Hall of Fame, P & O. You deserve it.

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