The general secretary of the RMT union says it’s “unfortunate” that travellers to and from Bute, and other Scottish islands, will face severe disruption thanks to the union’s industrial action.
Mick Cash issued a statement to the public on Wednesday morning as a 48-hour overtime ban by RMT members working for Caledonian MacBrayne took effect, to be followed by a 24-hour all-out strike on Friday.
The disruption to Rothesay-Wemyss Bay services is expected to be minor on Wednesday and Thursday, with the cancellation of only one sailing each day (the 7pm from Wemyss Bay), while the Rhubodach-Colintraive route is not affected.
However, CalMac has yet to announce details of exactly how its services will be affected on Friday - warning only that serious disruption is “inevitable”.
Mr Cash said: “Let me be clear from the outset: our dispute is not with the users of the ferry services – it is with the company – and it is, of course, unfortunate that individual plans will be disrupted.
“But this dispute was wholly avoidable if those calling the shots had engaged with the union and listened to us from the outset. They have chosen not to.
“We all have a stake in this current situation. RMT’s action is about defending the lifeline ferry services long into the future. Our members have been forced to take action due to the failure of the company to respond, despite ample warning, to the union’s calls for assurances that would protect both the livelihoods of the loyal and hard-working CalMac staff and the essential ferry services that they provide.
“Our members are active and respected members of the communities that rely on these CalMac services. The idea that they would take action lightly is ridiculous. Many of them rely on the ferry services themselves, not just for their jobs but for their own transportation and supply lines.
“The last thing that they would want is to inconvenience their own friends and neighbours but when you have had your arm twisted up your back, and you know exactly what is looming on the horizon, there comes a point when you either make a stand or you roll over. Our members have chosen to make a stand in ballots showing over 90 per cent in favour of action – our trade union is proud of them
“Any attempts to denigrate CalMac employees, who in many cases have dedicated whole working lives to providing safe and reliable ferry links to the island communities in all weathers and conditions, would be wholly unfair and would be in ignorance of just what is being fought for in this dispute. Decent jobs and working conditions go hand in hand with the delivery of essential and safe ferry services run in the public interest.
“The whole history of privatisation is well documented and means inevitable cuts to staffing, attacks on pay, pensions and conditions, and the cherry-picking of lucrative services to maximise profits. Public service and loyalty to staff doesn’t get a look in.
“RMT wants this dispute resolved fairly. You can help us apply pressure for a settlement by standing shoulder to shoulder with your CalMac workforce and by lobbying the company and your political representatives.
“CalMac has a great history. RMT wants it to enjoy a great and secure future as well. That means respecting the staff who are out there round the clock, often in appalling conditions, delivering these lifeline services.
“Stand by the workforce and help us to secure a fair settlement to this dispute.”