More ferry strikes still on the table, says RMT

The chartered Clyde Marine vessel MV Clipper provided a limited passenger-only service between Rothesay and Wemyss Bay during the RMT's last 24-hour strike on June 26.
The chartered Clyde Marine vessel MV Clipper provided a limited passenger-only service between Rothesay and Wemyss Bay during the RMT's last 24-hour strike on June 26.

The threat of yet more strike action hitting Rothesay’s ferry service is still very much alive, according to the RMT.

Talke between the union and CalMac Ferries Ltd are taking place this week in a bid to resolve concerns over the implications of the Scottish Government’s tendering of the next Clyde and Hebrides ferry contract.

Those talks are due to go on until the end of this week, with the RMT having set a deadline of July 24 for their conclusion.

In a letter to the union’s CalMac members on Tuesday, general secretary Mick Cash said: “Members will be aware that we are still in dispute with Cal-Mac/Argyll Ferries over various assurances which were being sought prior to the tendering exercise which you and your union still oppose. We agreed to suspend industrial action planned for last week to allow further discussions in the hope of gaining those assurances.

“I can report that discussions have taken place last week with both the Scottish Government and Cal-Mac. If is fair to say that the talks so far have been difficult and we are concerned that the emphasis seems to be on what can’t and won’t be done rather that what can be done to solve this dispute particularly from Cal-Mac.

“This is bitterly disappointing, as your union suspended the industrial in good faith to allow these talks to take place. The RMT has made every effort to secure a series of very basic assurances over no compulsory redundancies, staffing levels, conditions of service and pensions but to no avail.

“I can report that further talks are scheduled to take place on Wednesday and Thursday [22nd and 23rd July]. However, unless there is more movement from the company in these talks, then further industrial action cannot be ruled out.”The RMT’s fears surround the implications for its members’ jobs, working conditions and pensions of the tendering process, in which the state-owned CFL is competing against private firm Serco to win the contract.

A 24-hour strike by the union halted normal services on the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay route, and on all the other routes served by CalMac’s larger vessels, on June 26 - though a chartered catamaran provided a limited passenger-only service during the stoppage.

A further walkout, due to take place on July 10, was halted after the Scottish Government agreed to a delay in the tendering process to allow further talks to take place.

Responding to Mr Cash’s statement, CFL managing director Martin Dorchester said: “We are very disappointed that the trade unions have decide to take this stance publicly while talks are ongoing.

“It is hardly in the spirit of working towards a mutually acceptable conclusion that will avoid further damaging action.

“To be crystal clear CalMac Ferries has not sought to change any existing terms and conditions. Our colleagues have excellent terms and conditions and strong collective bargaining agreements that support them.

“The best way of protecting this is to work with us to win the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract. I would urge all parties to keep talking to resolve our differences so we can work together towards this common goal.”