A former P&O Ferries' nightshift worker has recalled the moment he realised he had lost his job - a security guard woke him up and urged him to “pack up and get off” the ship.
The engineer, from Dover, said he slept through the infamous Zoom call as he had been on a long shift overnight.
Having worked at the company for three years, he told the Mirror there were no signs that the mass sacking was set to take place.
“It was crazy, there was so much confusion with all the security guards coming”, the engineer told the Mirror.
“They had handcuffs and were positioned all around the ship to prevent us from taking things, or clearly just in case people got angry and refused to leave.”
The engineer claimed the company had promised to help staff move their belongings from the ship as they live on sea for half of the year.
“But they didn’t, they just left us”, he claimed.
He was one of dozens sacked P&O Ferries staff who marched on Parliament this afternoon to express their anger and disgust at how they were treated.
Last Thursday P&O made a shock announcement, telling staff via video message that they were being replaced immediately by cheaper agency crew.
A senior officer, also at the protest, claims he got a text at 10.38am on Thursday morning that there was “bad news”, and he was urged to watch the Zoom call at 11.10.
“It came completely out of the blue”, he told the Mirror.
“They were ordering uniform for us earlier in the week. The night before we completed a normal handover, and seniors even told me ‘see you next week’.
“I’m not sure what I will do. I’ve worked with P&O for 13 years. It was the first job I got once I finished school.”
Labour MPs including Angela Rayner, Barry Gardiner, Jonathan Reynolds, Karl Turner, Zarah Sultana showed solidarity with the protestors outside the Commons.
Ms Rayner told the crowd: “My message to P&O is quite simple; you said you needed to save money, well look what it’s done to your company now, look what people think of your company now!
“And any other company that thinks they can do something like this, I say to them, we’ll come for your next. This has to stop now.”
Hull East MP Karl Turner condemned P&O as a “disgusting, stinking, capitalist, predatory company”, and said he had spoken with devastated former workers including a man who was 18 months from retirement when he was sacked.
Mr Turner said: “(The Government) had the chance in the past and they’ve let the side down. It’s no good (Transport Secretary) Grant Shapps coming out now with his crocodile tears. He could do something to act today.
“A man I spoke to started as a deckhand at 17 years of age, he’s a first mate now. He’s got 18 months before he retires. (He was) crying like a baby to me about the disgust and the fact that he felt so betrayed by this disgusting, stinking, capitalist, predatory company.”
In a message to the Government, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC said: “P&O want to rob their livelihoods. If you let them get away with this, then every worker will believe that they are coming after us next.
“Loyal hardworking workers were being escorted off ferries by guards. We are not going to let them get away with it.”
Ms O’Grady urged the gathering not to taken their anger out on the replacement crew who are being paid £1.80, according to unions, saying: “Migrant workers are not the enemies. Bad bosses are.”
Mum-of-three Heather, 34, expressed her disappointment at P&O’s behaviour because she has struggled to get a job as a master marina because of childcare and maternity leave.
Mum-of-three Heather said P&O had been one of the few companies to offer family-friendly hours.
“It’s hard working at sea as a woman”, she told the Mirror, “I'm gutted for all of my former colleagues who have lost their jobs and I’m here at this protest in full support of them.
“I’m also gutted because P&O were one of the only companies, if not the only company, that I knew that did job shares and enabled a mother like myself to work on a family friendly shift pattern.”
Heather used to work part time at P&O until she had her last child.
It came as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said P&O Ferries should remove British references from their ships if they replace sacked workers with non-UK staff.
The Transport Secretary told MPs it would be “completely inappropriate” for the company to “attach themselves to this country” without having British workers.
But Mr Shapps was heckled by some opposition MPs given his concerns over the names came in response to questions about the treatment of workers.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Shapps said seafarers who were fired are being offered redundancy terms “on the condition they sign a non-disclosure agreement” as he criticised the company for trying to “keep employees quiet and trying to pay them off in return”.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), which represented many of the 800 staff fired without notice last week, said Indian seafarers hired to replace sacked P&O Ferries crews are being paid just 2.38 US dollars (£1.81) an hour.
Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, intervening, told Mr Shapps: “It seems to me what he’s saying is that it’s absolutely unacceptable, indeed it’s outrageous, that the Pride of Britain will be staffed by non-British workforce on the basis that they’ve been sacked in an inappropriate manner.
“But were the Pride of Britain to be staffed by a non-British workforce and they had been sacked by the appropriate channels, that’d be OK. That’s not taking back control, it’s weak.”