Friday, December 18, 2015

Company Bidding for Freight and Passenger Ferry Services Attacked Again

Union Hostilities Continue Over Safety Matters
Shipping News Feature
UK – Hostilities between Serco, the group currently bidding to take control of the freight and passenger ferry service between the Scottish mainland and the Western Isles, and the RMT union, continue unabated this month with the RMT accusing the company of blatant disregard of safety issues on the Caledonian rail sleeper operation.

Having posted a pre-tax loss in August of £76.2 million for six months trading in the first half of 2015, interest will peak in how the company has performed to this month when figures are released, presumably in February. What has rankled with the union is the possibility that Serco will collect what it calls a ‘taxpayer-funded bung’ of £300,000 as a result of next week’s planned strike, called in protest at the union’s insistence that Serco was responsible for the ‘abject failure to maintain the rolling stock’.

With a strike planned between 18.30 hours on Tuesday 22nd December 2015 until 18.29 hours on Thursday 24th December 2015 the RMT says the rail privatisation contract means the company affected can gain compensation from the Scottish Government for income lost during a trade dispute, regardless of whether it was of their making in the first place.

Last month Scottish ferry workers lobbied outside the Scottish Parliament to demand the Clyde and Hebrides service contract not be taken from Caledonian MacBrayne saying that public opinion was firmly in favour of maintaining the status quo. At the same time the RMT emphasised that Serco had be banned from quoting for Westminster contracts and called the company ‘specialists in failure’.

Following the protest Transport Minister Derek Mackay conceded that the RMT's legal opinion on the Teckal exemption from tendering public contracts needed to be fully examined and he offered to meet his Labour counterparts to discuss this further. An RMT member said the situation surrounding the Caledonian sleeper contract was ‘yet another vivid illustration as to why the ferry service should remain as it is’.

Photo: RMT members and ferry workers outside the Scottish Parliament in November.