Unless you’ve been out of the UK for the past week or so, you will undoubtedly be aware that P&O Ferries has been in the headlines. This followed their firing of 800 employees and immediately replacing them with agency staff. Now, it is hardly unheard of to announce a redundancy programme of that sort of number of employees, but it is pretty unusual when that number represents 46% of your entire workforce! Yet even that wasn’t what created the backlash of this announcement.
No, what really created the storm is the way the whole affair was handled, because:
- The employees (a number with over 30 years’ service) were notified via a short (three-minute) video-link and expected to immediately evacuate their vessels and go home with security guards on hand to escort them off;
- Their agency replacements were waiting on shore to board immediately after they had disembarked.
Not since I saw the redundancy of an entire division of employees who were all in the top ten percent of performers, have I witnessed anything like it. Headlines are referring to it as an extreme example of the ugly side of capitalism. But it isn’t. It is just a further revelation of asinine management and the complete lack of understanding of the value of people and the consequence of treating employees exclusively as costs.
A quick attempt to model the numbers gives a quick idea of the thinking behind the decision.