Fair Pay for CalMac Covid Heroes

Circular No: NP/092/21


Our ref: S2/1

23rd March 2021

Dear Colleagues

Fair Pay for CalMac Covid Heroes

I am writing to update you on the pay dispute between your union and CalMac Ferries, following the employer’s derisory 0.5% pay offer for 2020-21.

This insulting offer, rejected by three out of the four recognised trade unions, was followed by an outrageous refusal to engage with RMT in meaningful discussions, even through ACAS. To add insult to injury, CalMac’s hard working staff have had to look on as a fat cat CalMac director received a 16% pay increase, Serco NorthLink awarded their staff 1% for the same period and public sector workers (subject to a different pay anniversary date) received 3% and 2% pay increases for 2020-21 and 2021-22 respectively.

In January, I wrote to MSPs in CalMac constituencies on this matter and in a meeting on 7th January 2021 the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP told us that he expected the employer to engage ‘proactively’ with the RMT. CalMac’s subsequent silence leads us to conclude that the employer believes that RMT members have no option but to accept a below inflation pay increase and move on. They would be wrong in that belief.

We are preparing for a long running dispute with CalMac on this, with members participating and kept regularly updated. If CalMac continue to treat our modest demands with such contempt, we will make CalMac pay justice an issue for candidates in the forthcoming Scottish parliamentary elections and beyond. To prepare the ground for a long running dispute, we have taken a number of actions.

Firstly, I wrote to Minister Wheelhouse last week demanding another meeting to discuss CalMac’s continued ignorance and high handed treatment of our members’ aspirations. That meeting took place earlier today. The Lead Officer and the CalMac Convenor again spelled out the impact that working in the pandemic is having on our members and the effect that CalMac’s behaviour could have on industrial relations. In response, Mr Wheelhouse said that CalMac were prepared to engage with RMT and that he would make sure that this leads to a re-opening of meaningful negotiations.

Secondly, the following motion has been tabled for the union in the Scottish Parliament by the RMT Group Convenor, Elaine Smith MSP:

Motion S5M-24436: Elaine Smith, Central Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/03/2021 R

Fair Pay for CalMac COVID-19 Heroes

That the Parliament pays tribute to key public sector workers, including CalMac Ferries’ staff, who it considers have risked their lives to maintain lifeline ferry links during the COVID-19 pandemic; supports the 3% pay settlement in 2020-21 for public sector workers; is concerned that, in contrast, seafarers, port and other staff at CalMac Ferries were reportedly offered 0.5% in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to, it understands, an anomaly in the Retail Price Index (RPI) for August 2020; expresses further concern regarding reports that CalMac’s negotiating team refused to recognise this anomaly, only made one offer, which it said was final, and rejected conciliation through ACAS; believes that such intransigence has led to a dispute situation; understands that the RPI rate since August has averaged 1.18%, and that the 1% pay increase was agreed for seafarers and other ferry workers at Serco NorthLink in 2020-21; notes the 2% pay increase for public sector workers in the Scottish Government’s Budget for 2021-22; considers that CalMac Ferries is undervaluing the hard work and sacrifices of key public sector workers in the ongoing pandemic; agrees with the reported view of the RMT that the cost of settling the dispute is minimal; believes that, without resolution, CalMac’s treatment of its workers threatens to undermine industrial relations as pandemic restrictions are lifted, and calls on CalMac Ferries to engage proactively with the RMT ahead of the Scottish Parliament election.

And thirdly, a campaign schedule is being drawn up and will be shared with members shortly. This will feature days of action to coincide with CalMac’s summer schedule, letters for members to send to candidates in the Holyrood elections and other interventions.

We of course don’t begrudge any other public sector workers in Scotland being fairly rewarded for their work, especially in the current extreme circumstances of the pandemic, and that is all we are asking for – fair pay for our CalMac members’ heroic efforts in maintaining lifeline ferry links for island communities in the face of this terrible disease.

Circumstances may favour the employer now but with lockdown restrictions expected to ease over the coming months, CalMac members will be in a better position to exercise the industrial strength that is often necessary to change employers’ minds in these situations.

I would be grateful if you could share this update with members in your branch or region and I will keep you informed of further developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary