CalMac ferries threatened by strike ballot

A Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, MV Argyle, in Rothesay Bay. Picture: Johnston Press
A Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, MV Argyle, in Rothesay Bay. Picture: Johnston Press
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A STRIKE ballot at ferry operator CalMac was announced today by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

The union said the move was prompted by the Scottish Government-owned firm’s “failure to provide satisfactory reassurances over job security, conditions of service, pensions and continuity of lifeline ferry services for remote communities and businesses”.

A spokesman said: “‎The industrial relationship with CalMac on the Clyde and Hebrides network has deteriorated in recent months to such an extent that the RMT has today declared a formal dispute with the company.

“The union will shortly begin balloting members for both strike action and action short of a strike.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “The clock is ticking and the union has no alternative but to ballot CalMac members for strike action and industrial action short of strike action, in order to secure our members’ rights during this period of increasing uncertainty and insecurity.”

CalMac is competing with rival bidder Serco for the next eight-year contract to run its west coast ferry network of some 25 routes between Campbeltown and Stornoway.

The companies are expected to be asked next month to submit tenders, with the winner of to be announced in May next year and the £125 million a year contract starting in October.

A spokesman for CalMac Ferries Ltd said: “We are disappointed that the RMT has outlined its intention to ballot for industrial action given the bulk of these issues were only raised with us on Monday.

“Discussions on pensions are due to commence next week but the RMT have chosen to act before we have had an opportunity to finalise pension reform proposals and consult fully with our employees.

“We have a timetable in place for formal consultations with our staff and unions, a process which is designed to help us reach a fair agreement on an acceptable set of proposals.

“These demands for assurances include a number of other matters which have not previously been raised with the company.

“While we would welcome discussion on all these issues, we believe it is far too early in the consultation process to be talking in terms of a potential dispute.

“Should the possibility of industrial action arise we will strive to minimise the effect on our communities and employees.

“Clearly we remain hopeful that any unnecessary dispute can be avoided and we don’t lose sight of delivering a lifeline service over a busy summer period.”