Dover was grid-locked this weekend - and not just because of the Easter holidays. By Monday, there were 4,500 lorries waiting to get to the port, blocking 23 miles of the M20. Some drivers had been stuck for 3 days, with no access to toilets, food or water!
Since P&O sacked 800 British-based seafarers last month, just one ferry has restarted sailings. The Maritime Coastguard Agency said it would inspect all 8 ships which P&O proposes to sail with its new, cheaper crews on board (paid £5.50/hour, £4 below the minimum wage of £9.50) - but 2 ships already failed safety inspections.
The workers brought in on agency contracts don't know the ships well enough yet, to be able to operate them safely. On top of it all, P&O has cut crew numbers on each ship and changed the length of time they spend on-board. Instead of one-week on, one-week off, they'll have 15-day "tours of duty".
All the huffing and puffing by Tory ministers over forcing P&O to take back the sacked workers was just that - hot air. The workers have already lost their jobs: they were told that if they didn't accept the sacking terms P&O imposed (“compensation” in lieu of notice, plus redundancy) and sign a gagging order(!) within 21 days, they'd get nothing!
RMT and Nautilus International union protests demanding their reinstatement carry on nevertheless. And of course the workers would prefer to have their jobs back. It’s come out that after claiming it had losses of £200m and “had to” sack the workers, P&O just took delivery of 2 new super-ferries - apparently worth more than £380m!
Of course it's not only the P&O crisis which is causing chaotic disruption at Dover. The new Brexit customs system, the Goods Vehicle Movement Service, implemented in January 2021, broke down on 31 March, and has been out of action since! But even when it's working, each lorry still takes 15-20 minutes to pass through customs - and that's without the full system of customs checks having been implemented yet!
In the meantime, it's workers and ordinary travellers who end up paying the cost of this mess. To demand, as union leaders do, that the government intervene to do something about it, is a dead end. The working class has to fight its own battles, whether it’s to get P&O workers their jobs back, or end the Brexit chaos. - and the sooner it does so, the better.