Unions have been left furious after a company that sacked 900 P&O workers was given a lucrative contract to run a new Freeport in Essex.

The new Thames Freeport will be co-managed by DP World, the company that runs P&O Ferries.

The government says the facility would “grow the economy and unlock high-quality jobs.”

But TUC general secretary Paul Nowak called the decision “appalling” and said ministers were rewarding the company a year after almost 800 ferry workers were abruptly laid off over Zoom and replaced with considerably less expensive agency workers.

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P&O later acknowledged it had broken employment law but argued the move had saved the business.

Mr. Nowak said: “DP World oversaw the brutal – and illegal – sacking of 800 workers at P&O ferries. Ministers should have stripped the company of all its public contracts and severed commercial ties.

“But the government has chosen instead to reward DP World with another bumper deal.

“This is giving a green light to other rogue employers to act with impunity.”

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The government stated DP World, along with automaker Ford and Forth Ports, would be “partners” in the project.

It stressed £25 million in public financing would go to local councils rather than the company.

Freeports are designated economic areas close to airports or shipping ports where standard tax and customs regulations do not apply.

In order to serve as national hubs for trade and investment, eight freeports have previously been established in England.

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A government spokesperson added the backing would be “used to benefit the entire region”.

The government lately passed its Seafarers Bill designed to progress the employment rights of ferry workers, although the TUC said there were “gaping holes” in the legislation.

It had annulled a contract with P&O in May, which it said was in response to the sackings.

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A spokesperson for Thames Freeport said: “the financial incentives available to occupiers of the Thames Freeport site are expected to generate more than £4.6bn of new investment over the next 25 years, with the public sector component invested exclusively in local public infrastructure”.

They added: “It is important to understand that the financial incentives and tax reliefs on business rates and stamp duty being provided by the central and local government are designed solely to attract occupiers and tenants to the freeport site.

“The three private sector partners that own the land will not directly benefit from these reliefs.”

Source: Sky News

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