United for Ukraine: P&O 'scandal' forces South Yorkshire charity to suspend taking donations for refugees

A South Yorkshire-based charity has been forced to suspend taking donations to help fleeing Ukrainian refugees due to the shocking mass layoff of hundreds of employees at P&O Ferries.

Friday, 18th March 2022, 12:06 pm

United for Ukraine stated that P&O Ferries has been its primary carrier for delivering donations to aid war victims, but the charity has been left in the dark following recent developments.

P&O Ferries triggered outrage by axing 800 employees in favour of cheaper agency personnel, with staff being informed via a video call that Thursday, March 17 was their 'final day of employment.'

P&O said it was a 'tough' decision but it would 'not be viable' for the business if the changes did not take place.

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United for Ukraine organiser, Ryk said they have to stop accepting donations as they no longer have space for storage.

This has prompted the Government to criticise the firm's move, saying that its treatment of workers was 'wholly unacceptable'.

The RMT union is now threatening legal action against the ferry company, calling it one of the 'most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations’.

The crew were reportedly given no notice and were removed from their ships. Further protests are planned in Dover, Liverpool, and Hull.

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United for Ukraine organiser Ryk Matysiak said the news came as a shock to him.

‘Absolutely shocking’

United for Ukraine organiser Ryk Matysiak said the decision is affecting its operation as they have had to stop taking any more donations until the situation is resolved.

He said a lorry was scheduled to come next Monday, but with the sudden changes, everything looks uncertain.

He said: "We've got more (lorries) on the horizon but we can't accept any more donations until we know more from P&O. If we keep taking donations, everything is just going to pile up."

Ryk, whose charity is based in Barnsley, said the news came as a shock to him as he was not given any notice.

Ryk, whose charity is based in Barnsley, said the news came as a shock to him as he was not given any notice.

He said: "Shocked. Absolutely shocking industrial relations. I found out on social media, when the news popped up. That's when I decided to cancel everything that we were doing.

"It's frustrating. The boxes are all ready to go in two lorries and another two lorries were scheduled to go in two weeks' time, this has just pushed us back.

Ryk said the charity has over 200 volunteers from South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Derbyshire since it started a little over two weeks ago.

The volunteers are however still required to carry on sorting and packing until further notice to help clear donations already accepted.

He said the charity can also no longer accept pre-arranged donations as they do not have enough storage space.

‘Scandalous action’

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh, who is Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, slammed P&O.

She said: "This scandalous action is a betrayal of the workers that kept this country stocked throughout the pandemic.

"Unscrupulous employers cannot be given free rein to sack their workforce in secure jobs and replace them with agency staff.

"The Conservative government must not give the green light to this appalling practice and must act to secure the livelihoods of these workers."

According to Robert Courts, parliamentary under secretary for transport, the company had told him it will be suspending services for ‘a week to 10 days while they locate new crew’.

On Friday morning, the company again said on Twitter it would not run services ‘for the next few days’.