TALKS to resolve the dispute over Scotland’s west coast ferry services have been branded “bitterly disappointing” by the union representing workers.
The RMT union has warned that further industrial action cannot be ruled out ahead of two days of “last-ditch” negotiations today and Thursday.
Union leaders said progress on the issues of jobs and working conditions had been slow in discussions held last week with the Scottish Government and CalMac.
Two-thirds of west coast ferry services were suspended in June as ferry staff sought reassurances over the future of the Clyde and Hebrides operations.
A further day of strike action planned for earlier this month was called off to allow for talks over a tendering process that could see routes change hands from publicly-owned CalMac to private firm Serco.
In a circular to CalMac members, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It 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 CalMac.
It 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 CalMacMick Cash
“This is bitterly disappointing as your union suspended the industrial action 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.
“Unless there is more movement from the company in these talks, then further industrial action cannot be ruled out.”
CalMac’s contract to run the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services comes to an end next year and the Scottish Government has put the contract out to tender, in compliance with European Union (EU) law.
CalMac managing director Martin Dorchester said: “We are very disappointed that the trade unions have decided 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.”