Ballot opens today among 500 workers at state-owned ferry operator over threat of privatisation of key routes around Scottish mainland


The RMT has warned the Scottish government they are ‘on a collision course’ unless ministers provide guarantees of jobs, staffing levels and pensions for hundreds of seafarers working on lifeline ferry services faced with possible privatisation.

(Pictured: CalMac ferry docks at Wemyss Bay. One of the services facing privatisation)

The union has this morning begun balloting around 500 members working on Caledonian MacBrayne ferries in Scotland as a deadline approaches in a five-year round of tenders for routes from the Northern Isles, Hebrides and Clyde coast to the mainland.

The state-owned ferry operator has been a household name around Scotland’s islands and coastline for generations, but has been subject to regular re-tendering under EU competition legislation since 2005.

Unions have fought a series of battles against against both SNP and Labour-LibDem governments to halt part-privatisation of the services.

The Scottish Government’s transport agency now wants to privatise four routes along the Clyde coast and another which links the mainland to Orkney.

Negotiators are seeking assurances from the SNP government that there will be no attack on staff wages or pension entitlements under the tendering process.

RMT regional shipping organiser, Michael Hogg, told UnionNews: “These five-year tenders do not sit comfortably with us.

“We would rather see the tender process extended or done away with altogether. It creates a lot of uncertainty.

“Hundreds of thousands of pounds are being spent unnecessarily in our view.

“We would rather see that money spent on new vessels – that’s money well invested as far as the taxpayer’s concerned.”

CalMac receives annual subsidies for running costs worth some £100m.

RMT officials are due to meet Scottish Transport Minister, Keith Brown on 6 September.

Says Michael Hogg: “If we get the assurances and guarantees we are seeking, we’re happy to cancel the ballot.

“But in the meantime, we need the mandate from the membership in order to keep the momentum up and put as much pressure on the Scottish government as possible.

“If we don’t get those assurances, the Scottish government is on a collision course.”

You can watch a film report on the dispute here:

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