P&O Ferries is confident of avoiding a fine for sacking nearly 800 seafarers without notice.
The annual report of the DP World-owned ferry operator, seen by the PA news agency, said its directors think an ongoing inquiry by the Insolvency Service will not result in any punishment.
Some 786 of the company’s workers were made redundant without consultation on March 17 2022, leading to widespread criticism from politicians and trade unions.
They were replaced by cheaper agency staff.
A criminal investigation into what happened did not result in a prosecution.
“The directors consider that it will not be able to demonstrate this and consequentially there is a less than remote possibility of a related economic outflow in relation to any such action.”
This means the company does not think a provision for the investigation is needed in its accounts.
All affected employees were “compensated in full” for the lack of consultation, the document said, leading to enhanced redundancy packages costing a total of £36.5 million.
There was a “further impact” from the redundancies in the time it took for ships to return to service due to familiarisation requirements for the new crews and safety checks.
The operator’s financial results for 2021 – before the mass sackings occurred – show its pre-tax losses trebled to £374.5 million, from £103.3 million the previous year.
The annual report said: “The directors recognise that the actions taken in March 2022 were perceived negatively by sections of the national media and political leaders.
“The directors maintain that the actions taken were necessary for the long-term financial health of the business and that public sentiment will gradually recover towards the business as it continues to operate in a transparent and compliant manner.”
It said the company’s directors believe the company “will have sufficient funds to continue to meet its liabilities”.
This is partly due to a dependence on the availability of “sufficient debt facilities”.
A spokesman for P&O Ferries said the financial accounts confirm the business “needed to make major changes to its operating model in order to survive”.
He went on: “These changes mean we have secured the long-term future of the business, the service our customers rely on and our critical role in keeping the UK connected.
“We are working hard to return the business to long-term profitability, and to thrive in a highly competitive market.
“We are now serving the needs of customers better than ever before.
“We are proud to be the market leader in ferry travel on the Channel.
“In the first three months of this year P&O Ferries carried 45% of total passenger ferry crossings between Dover and France, more than any other ferry operator.
“Last summer we carried more than one million passengers and our passenger booking numbers are now the highest we’ve had either during or since the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “The whiff of corruption is enveloping the Conservative Government, and allowing corporate law breakers like P&O Ferries and DP World off scot-free is a profoundly dangerous trend for all workers in the UK and anywhere DP World’s subsidiaries operate.
“P&O and its owner DP World must be penalised for the mass sackings.”
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak told PA: “DP World should be punished for its brutal and illegal sacking of 800 staff at P&O ferries.
“But the company may escape without even a fine. That would be a scandal.”