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DP World commercial director Aart Hille Ris Lambers resigns from Solent Freeport board after P&O Ferries backlash

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THE UK commercial director of DP World has resigned from the board of Solent Freeport in the wake of the backlash over the mass sacking of hundreds of seafarers.

DP World, the parent company of P&O Ferries, held the position through Aart Hille Ris Lambers due to its ownership of the deep water cargo terminal in Southampton, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, himself a board member and the leader of its 'accountable body', said his resignation "was the right thing to do".

The freeport is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs
The freeport is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs

"What happened was appalling and I was very clear that that made his position untenable,' he said. 'He is a great guy who contributed to the work we've been doing and I imagine he would have been as shocked as the rest of us at what happened."

Last week P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite admitted to MPs that sacking 800 workers without notice broke laws requiring consultation with unions.

He said they would not have accepted the decision and instead it was easier to compensate workers "in full". He said each person would receive at least £15,000.

But the company's actions drew widespread condemnation. Last week the Portsmouth Labour group wrote to Cllr Vernon-Jackson urging him to work to remove DP World's influence over the freeport.

Group leader George Fielding welcomed the decision of Mr Lambers to resign from its board but said more needed to be done.

"The response of various representatives of P&O Ferries and DP World illustrates an outrageous disregard for common decency and basic workers’ rights," he said.

"The resignation of one individual, while welcome, is insufficient and shows how little DP World understand the anger they’ve generated. We are calling for the immediate rehiring of all workers affected, on previous terms and conditions.

"In the absence of that, we call for agreements for the Solent Freeport to include the highest standards for site workers, including the Real Living Wage and collective bargaining rights."

The freeport is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs and boost the economy by £2bn economic boost It covers five Hampshire local authorities and includes a tax site at Dunsbury Park and customs centre at Portsmouth port.

A freeport spokesman said its governance arrangements were being 'reviewed' as part of preparation of its final business case which is due to be submitted to the government soon.

They said: "We will be announcing detailed information on this work shortly and expect this to include a range of changes to our board, designed to ensure the Solent Freeport is ready to enter the delivery phase of activity for the benefit of our local economy businesses and communities as soon as possible."

DP World has been contacted for comment.

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