Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Freight and Passenger Ferry Tender Takes Another Twist

Politician Speaks Out Against Serco
Shipping News Feature
UK – It would seem that international outsourcing giant Serco is currently about as popular in Scotland as Donald Trump. Whilst the weirdly coiffured American billionaire has upset locals and environmentalists with his variety of golf course schemes in Aberdeenshire, Serco’s bid to wrest the Clyde and Hebridean freight and passenger services from the long-time incumbent operator, Calmac, is attracting criticism at the highest levels.

After lobbying by stakeholders, including the RMT union, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, David Stewart has lodged a motion which is openly critical of Serco, a company with whom he has at least a little history after the company dismissed 21 workers from its call centre in Brora last year, a facility it had previously acquired as a going concern. The motion, *S4M-15236 David Stewart: Serco Failures in Scotland states:

“That the Parliament notes what it sees as the continued failure of Serco Group’s business model; understands that the group is forecast to lose over £700 million in 2016; believes that this exposes taxpayers in Scotland, as well as passengers and workers, to unacceptable risk on Serco-operated services for the Caledonian Sleeper service and Northern Isles ferries; understands that, since Serco was awarded the contracts for these, there have been industrial disputes on both; notes that a dispute with RMT members on the Caledonian Sleeper service is live; understands that Serco is bidding for the 2016-24 Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) contract, which is valued at up to £1 billion in public subsidy and worth at least £483 million in passenger fares; believes that public services are best provided by the public sector and that outsourcing to private providers damages democracy and employment standards, and calls on the Scottish Government to make an announcement before the election on 5 May 2016 that the CHFS contract will be awarded to the public sector ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne.”

The motion was well supported by an assortment of Members and updates information published in our last article which queried the likelihood of Serco returning such a large loss for the fiscal year. Certainly with the weight of local politicians and citizens, plus the continuing union objections, all eyes will be on the Scottish Government to see what is to become of a set of services which are far more than a normal crossing in that they form an essential life line, quite literally, to the outlying islands.