Minister delays privatisation for three years saying there is no “compelling case” for tendering single routes


Unions have welcomed the decision by Scottish ministers to delay tendering for three Scottish ferry routes until 2014.

(Pictured: Caledonian MacBrayne ferry docks at Wemyss Bay terminal, August 2012)

Nautilus, RMT, TSSA and Unite have been campaigning against plans to privatise routes covering the Clyde coast and the Hebrides, currently operated by CalMac, so were delighted to hear transport minister Keith Brown say there was “no compelling case” for tendering single routes and that CalMac will be awarded a three-year interim contract when the current contract expires next autumn.

The employers’ organisation, CBI, said tendering for individual routes would have increased competition. However, critics argued it would allow some companies to ‘cherry pick’ the most profitable routes, leaving others with a poorer service.

The RMT had secured an overwhelming vote for industrial action in opposition to the threat of privatisation.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “The confirmation of the three year delay on the CalMac tendering is a massive victory for the RMT campaign against privatisation and in defence of jobs and working conditions.

“It is also a massive victory for the users of these lifeline services.

“There is no question that our campaign of political and public pressure, alongside a massive mandate for strike action from our members, has helped force the pace on this momentous decision.

“There is now no excuse for ministers’ not to sign off the long term assurances on pensions and workplace rights and conditions that are still outstanding and which remain at the heart of our current dispute.

“RMT will also continue to campaign for the expensive and disruptive tendering of services to be scrapped for good so that we can all focus on the delivery of these essential lifeline services long into the future.”

The state-owned ferry operator receives annual government subsidies worth around £100m.

The current contract for Clyde and Hebrides services was due to expire next autumn.

Unions and other transport campaigners believe the operation of Scotland’s lifeline ferry routes should be put on a longer-term footing, similar to the 13-year tendering cycles for rail franchises.

Nautilus senior national organiser Ronnie Cunningham said: “This news will provide reassurances for members who have seen the problems and insecurities created at Northlink [Northern Isles services] when the ferry services go through a tender process.

“I hope that the Scottish government will use this time wisely to ensure that when the contract is renewed, all consequences, such as pensions, are considered.

“We will continue to work to secure the long term future of the service and end the expensive and disruptive tendering of Scotland’s lifeline services.’

“The interim three-year contract with CalMac will allow the necessary detailed preparation work required to finalise the scope of the new contract to be completed.

“This work includes consideration of the expansion of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service to include some services currently being delivered by local authorities as outlined in our Draft Ferries Plan.”

The STUC has also welcomed the settlement over the ferries franchise.

A spokesman said: “The unequivocal commitment to tender the routes as a single contract and the decision to set in place a new interim contract represent a sensible and pragmatic way forward.

“We also welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to establish a structured process to progress complex issues around how pensions are dealt with in future contracts.

“After a prolonged period of uncertainty, ferry workers will today believe their futures are more secure.”

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