Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Eurotunnel and DFDS Take Swipe at Ex SeaFrance Staff Representatives as RoRo Ferry Freight Piles Up

Delays at Calais Continue - Now MyFerryLink Owner and Purchaser Tell it Like it is.
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK – Groupe Eurotunnel, which subcontracted staff from SCOP SeaFrance to man the ships and offices of its subsidiary MyFerryLink RoRo freight and passenger service which ran between Dover and Calais up to this week, have come out all guns blazing at the way the personnel involved, and their representatives, have behaved over the past three weeks.

In Calais we have seen an abundance of arson on the tracks, pickets obstructing rival ferry companies and the whole port brought to a standstill as a consequence. Eurotunnel has obviously decided that a dose of reality is well overdue and, without even pointing out that it has kept almost 600 people employed for the past three years, explained why it views the actions of SCOP as ludicrous.

Eurotunnel has confirmed, yet again, that it was never the direct employer of the ex SeaFrance staff, with good reason given their turbulent employment history. SCOP seems unable to grasp the point that it acted as a subcontractor with a fixed term contract which expired on 1 July. Eurotunnel points out that many statements, often before the Courts, by SCOP representatives intimated it was not for the owner of the vessels i.e. Eurotunnel alone, to decide their fate.

In particular, Eurotunnel says it cannot understand why the Judicial Administrators of SCOP SeaFrance who, at Groupe Eurotunnel's initiative, met with the new owner DFDS on 9 June 2015, have refused to start negotiations on the recruitment of staff. Groupe Eurotunnel says it regrets that three valuable weeks that could have been used for these essential employment negotiations between DFDS and the SCOP SeaFrance, have therefore been wasted.

SCOP SeaFrance has now been liquidated by the Court, something Eurotunnel rejects any responsibility for, blaming it principally on the consequence of successive decisions by the Competition and Markets Authority which forced the Group to announce its withdrawal from the maritime sector more than six months ago.

So what must the new owners, sorry leaseholders, of the two ex SeaFrance/MyFerryLink vessels think of this situation? It is hardly the ideal job interview for the potential 200+ staff DFDS Seaways is looking to help run its new three vessel route. DFDS are bound to take full ownership of Berlioz and Rodin as soon as the Courts or time allows and the company’s recent mood can perhaps be best judged by the latest statement from Carsten Jensen, senior vice president and head of DFDS Seaways in the UK, who said:

“We are deeply concerned that our customers are continuing to face long delays on their cross Channel journeys due to ongoing industrial action in Calais, which has closed that port. We’d like to apologise to all our passengers and freight customers caught up in this gruelling situation and appeal to the authorities in France to reopen the port of Calais as soon as possible to allow people to travel through it quickly and safely.

“Whilst we appreciate the hard work from the police and port authorities in Dover and France, and we are working closely with them to transport as many passengers as possible through the alternative port of Dunkirk, some 20 miles east of Calais, the reality is that this situation is simply not acceptable and must not be allowed to continue."

Following this statement came a further release from DFDS which seems to sound the death knell for the disenchanted, some would say disillusioned, ex SeaFrance staff. It reads as follows and needs no further interpretation.

“Following discussions with all stakeholders including the French Minister of Transport, on June 25 2015 DFDS submitted an offer to the administrators of SCOP SeaFrance for the acquisition of a part of SCOP SeaFrance including 202 staff. This would have allowed DFDS to operate a 3rd vessel between Dover and Calais.

“DFDS has had no response to this offer and is surprised by the apparent unwillingness of the SCOP SeaFrance administrators to engage in a dialogue with DFDS. Yesterday night (30 June) DFDS was informed by the administrators that this offer was rejected.

“DFDS regrets the position taken by the administrators, but remains at the disposal of the Commercial Court of Boulogne to discuss a transfer of parts of the SCOP SeaFrance business in order to minimize the social impact of the potential liquidation of SCOP SeaFrance. The rejection of the offer does not affect the agreed bareboat charters between DFDS and the Eurotunnel Group, which will commence on 2 July 2015.”

Photo: Hundreds of trucks clog the approach roads to Calais stalled by the industrial action.