Privatisation of Scottish ferry services

Circular No: NP/101/15


Our ref: S1/2

29th May 2015

Dear Colleagues

Privatisation of Scottish ferry services

Further to the circular No.090/15 of 19th May 2015, the union has written to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP and the Transport Minister, Derek Mackay MSP setting out the union’s serious concerns at the Scottish Government’s ferries policy and their handling of the tender for the 2016-24 Clyde and Hebrides ferry services (CHFS) contract.

Both letters set out the union’s position and demand answers from the Scottish Government in the following key areas:
Timetable for re-tendering 2016-24 CHFS contract
The announcement of the winning bid for the CHFS contract must be made before the Scottish Parliamentary elections on 5th May. It is clearly in the interest of transparency and accountability for the Scottish Government to confirm that it will announce the winning bid for the CHFS 2016-24 contract before the date of parliamentary elections in Scotland and we have asked the Government to amend the timetable accordingly.

Support for RMT’s industrial dispute with CalMac
The union remains deeply alarmed at CalMac and the Scottish Government’s use of the CHFS re-tender process to attack members’ jobs, pensions and terms and conditions, not to mention staffing levels and lifeline ferry passenger and freight services to remote Clyde and Hebridean communities. We have asked that the Scottish Government support the union in meeting the demand we have made of CalMac in order to settle the current trade dispute, namely that, regardless of who wins any future tender, all CalMac workers should remain employed by Caledonian MacBrayne.

Privatisation and re-tendering
Privatisation takes public money out of the Scottish ferry industry through dividends paid to private shareholders. These payments are largely supported by public subsidy and investment, as well as fares revenue. The near 20% (£40m) increase in the subsidy to Serco NorthLink for the Northern Isles 2012-18 contract illustrates this, although under privatisation annual dividend payments and passenger fare revenues are withheld from the public on grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality.’ RMT have asked the Scottish Government if they continue to support the view expressed to RMT delegates at this year’s STUC congress by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP that CalMac will not be privatised.

The European regulation requiring re-tendering of contracts for Scottish ferry services is a disruptive, expensive and unnecessary imposition on this lifeline form of public transport. The union believes that a legal argument in favour of exempting Scottish ferries from this requirement could be successfully made to the European Commission and we have demanded detail from the Scottish Government on when and how they have challenged the European Commission over the effect of the re-tendering requirement on Scottish ferries.

Copies of the letters sent to the First Minister and Transport Minister are attached to this circular.

I would be grateful if you could bring this to the attention of all members in your branch and I will advise you of further developments.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary