Nautilus seeking direct talks with councillors in Northern Isles, as ferry workers’ pay dispute drags on into a second year

Tim Lezard

NautilusThe Nautilus union is seeking direct talks with councillors in the Northern Isles, as a pay dispute for ferry workers remains unresolved after a year.

Union members at Orkney Ferries are continuing to work to rule after the council continued to refuse to make an acceptable pay offer.

Members voted to take action short of a strike in March, but said they did not want to stage a full walk-out because of the damaging impact it could have on the islands’ population who rely on the lifeline services.

The board of Orkney Ferries, which is owned by Orkney Islands Council, made a pay offer last month which included a 1% increase in pay — well below the current inflation rate.

Negotiators pointed out during talks that, combined with the increase in cost of living, the ‘increase’ would leave staff worse off.

Nautilus is one of three unions which has been in dispute with the council since spring 2012 over demands for a pay rise for the ferry workers.

Ronnie Cunningham, Nautilus senior national organiser, said: “All our members are asking for is for Orkney Ferries to grant them a pay deal that will maintain their standard of living, in recognition of the hard work and dedication they have shown the council.

“To offer an increase only to those members without long service is a further knock to those members who have served the people of Orkney and ensured that services kept sailing in the face of deep cuts to staffing levels.”

The dispute arose when members employed by Orkney Ferries, which is owned by Orkney Islands Council, refused to accept the council’s position that ‘an increase in costs due to an increase in basic pay must be funded by commensurate savings in other costs of employment’.

Workers had asked the council to consider a pay increase in line with RPI or higher.

Union officials say the refusal of board members to consider an above-inflation increase, despite talks at the conciliation service, means they have no option but to make direct approaches to the council to try to resolve the dispute without escalating industrial action.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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