Nautilus International has shared a commitment from Carnival UK – part of Carnival Corporation & plc that owns P&O Cruises and Cunard Line – that the company will not use the perceived threat of firing and rehiring employees as contract negotiations progress.

This is welcome news for the more than 900 maritime employees who may have been affected by such a harsh strategy.

As negotiations move forward between Carnival UK and Nautilus International, the union representing 919 maritime employees who may be subject to significant contract changes as soon as January 2024, Carnival UK has officially withdrawn a threat of firing and rehiring employees under new contract terms.

Nautilus International had received a copy of Carnival UK’s HR1 form submitted to the Insolvency Service on Wednesday, November 22. That form stated that the company might consider “dismissal and re-engagement” if new contract terms could not be reached.

The two companies came together for discussions to help avoid such a coercive stance, which Carnival UK originally denied as a possibility. Carnival UK has now committed to withdrawing that form, assuring the union that such tactics will not be used.

P&O Iona Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: E.R. Images)

“This is a welcome move from Carnival UK and a positive indication of their commitment to engage in a meaningful consultation with us over changes to members’ terms and conditions,” said Martyn Gray, Nautilus executive officer. “We thank them for their commitment to not dismiss and re-engage and look forward to working with them to come to a negotiated settlement in the interests of all parties.”

It must be noted that with these contract negotiations and the – now-annulled – consideration of firing and rehiring, employees’ job performance was not a factor. The negotiations are addressing such topics as work contract lengths and overall salaries.

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

Nautilus International is urging the UK government to fully prohibit any type of fire-then-rehire strategies by employers. These tactics strip workers of their negotiating power and lead to bad faith communication.

“Fire and rehire – or dismissal and re-engagement – should never be an option for any employer to force changes to terms and conditions and the UK government should commit to outlawing this,” said Gray. “A statutory code of practice is not enough.”

In March 2022, P&O Ferries used exactly this type of strategy, firing 800 workers without notice and causing massive disruptions in ferry service and travel continuity. Various reports at the time indicated that P&O Ferries intended to replace the fired workers with cheaper employees.

Photo Credit: Ian_Stewart / Shutterstock

“As Britain’s favourite cruise line, your loyalty, advocacy and support has always meant the world to us. P&O Cruises has been part of Carnival Corporation & plc for over 20 years and has no connection to P&O Ferries,” P&O Cruises stated in response to that incident.

P&O Ferries is a privately-owned shipping company operating passenger and freight service around Dover, Portsmouth, and Southampton, as well as throughout the Irish Sea and the North Sea.

P&O Cruises, on the other hand, is a passenger cruise line operating a fleet of seven cruise ships for vacations rather than ferry service. The cruise line is part of the Carnival Corporation & plc family that also owns Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, AIDA Cruises, and other lines.

Each cruise line in the Carnival family operates independently, including for contract negotiations between unions and the cruise line.

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