Not easy to get ahead of Jeff Bezos and Howard Schultz (head of Starbucks). Yet it is the feat that has been achieved in spite of himself Peter Hebblethwaite, CEO of the British ferry company P&O. This Monday, November 21, the CEO was actually elected “World’s worst boss” of the Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). His achievement? To have laid off around 800 employees at once on March 17 in a pre-recorded Zoom video.
A message reminiscent of the methods of Elon Musk, who recently took control of Twitter, triggering a wave of departures after several firings. However, the shipping company’s boss has outdone himself.
After sending the mass layoff notice, a 24 second clip gone viral remind our colleagues OuchSt. FrancePeter Hebblethwaite shared a letter asking his disgruntled staff to “refrain from public commentFollowing this order, its employees have of course responded with demonstrations and refused to leave their ships.
Underpaid foreign workers
The matter could have ended there. This was despite the disdain of the Dubai-based DP World group, which was making big profits a few months later. To drive the point home, the dismissed employees of P&O Ferries would have been replaced by Colombian workers and temporary workers. These new recruits were paid £5.50 an hour, or much less than the minimum wage in the UK, set at £8.91.
The nationwide scandal created by this cynicism brought Peter Hebblethwaite before a parliamentary commission. The director then admitted to having deliberately violated the rights of his employees: “There is no doubt that we should consult the trade unions. We chose not to“, he explained, assuring that he would not hesitate to continue in the same way if necessary. A civil inquiry requested by the British authorities following these controversial statements is still ongoing.
Peter Hebblethwaite succeeds Jeff Bezos
Peter Hebblethwaite competed for the prize for “World’s worst boss” against Howard Schultz, head of Starbucks, but also Ahmed bin Said Al-Maktoum, president of the Emirates airline. The Briton thus succeeds Jeff Bezos, who won in 2014, and the CEO of low-cost airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, who won the competition in 2018. The P&O chief executive’s victory was shared on Monday on Twitter by international trade union, which brings together 332 trade union organizations in around 163 countries.