Ferry strike ballot process begins this week

The RMT trade union has confirmed that it will begin balloting its members on Caledonian MacBrayne ferries for strike action on Wednesday in an ongoing dispute over pensions and workplace rights.

A press release from the union stated that the confirmation of the timetable for the ballot – which will begin when voting papers are sent to RMT members on August 22, and will end when the vote closes on September 12 – comes “after the continuing failure to give assurances to staff in advance of the planned sell-off of key routes”.

The union is pressing ahead with the ballot process even though talks have already been scheduled between RMT representatives and Scottish transport minister Keith Brown for September 6.

The union is worried at the content of a 2010 consultation paper on the future of Scottish ferry services which suggested four routes – including the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay service – that might be appropriate for tendering separately to the rest of the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service network.

The union has demanded that existing pension provisions will be protected and will continue unaffected in the event of the four routes – Rothesay-Wemyss Bay, Ardrossan-Brodick, Oban-Craignure and Largs-Cumbrae – being tendered separately, and that the current practice of using a single joint bargaining machinery will continue, regardless of whether the contract is unbundled or not.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “The assurances we are seeking on pensions and bargaining machinery are simple and straightforward and no different to similar assurances we have negotiated on Serco’s Northern Isles routes. There is no excuse at all for the Scottish Government and the company to continue to ignore this perfectly reasonable request.

“RMT is strongly urging all members use their vote and return a massive ‘yes’ vote for strike action over this issue to show the Scottish Government and the company that we will stand firm together to fight against this threat to pensions, jobs and terms and conditions.

“We know from the Northern Isles experience that it is vital that we keep up the pressure on the company and the Scottish Government to protect our members rights and to support RMT’s ultimate goal which is an end to the non-stop tendering of these lifeline ferry services in the name of private profit.”