Re-tender of Clyde & Hebrides ferry services (CHFS)

Circular No: NP/020/15


Our ref: S/1/2

9th February 2015

Dear Colleagues

Re-tender of Clyde & Hebrides ferry services (CHFS)

Further to the circulars No. 220/12 of 26th September 2012 and 209/13 of 9th August 2013, I am writing to update you on developments in the Scottish Government’s plans to re-tender Clyde and Hebrides ferry services currently operated in the public sector by Caledonian MacBrayne.

As part of the Scottish Government’s decision in September 2012 to postpone the planned re-tendering of the CHFS contract, the then Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP committed to providing sufficient time for meaningful discussion with the RMT, STUC and other CalMac unions, of our demand for employment and pension protections in the current contract operated by CalMac to be included in any future contract for these services.

It should also be recalled that the Scottish Government took this decision to postpone re-tendering of the larger of the two contracts for Scottish ferry services having recently privatised the other, the Northern Isles contract when it awarded the contract to Serco in May 2012.

Despite the ministerial commitment to form the ‘Pensions Working Group’ in good time for meaningful discussion of CalMac unions’ demands on employment and pension protections, the Pensions Working Group only had its first meeting on 18th December last year.

Another meeting of the Pensions Working Group will take place later this week on 11th February when the RMT delegation will again make clear to Scottish Government officials our frustration at this delayed and potentially ineffective procedure. We will again make clear that the doubt and anxiety caused to CalMac workers by another re-tendering process could be alleviated by a clear commitment from the Government to honour existing employment and pensions protections in the new CHFS contract due to start in October 2016 and that such a commitment should be given to CalMac unions and STUC immediately. We will also repeat our opposition to the whole policy of re-tendering these lifeline public services.

Whilst the new CHFS contract is scheduled to start in October 2016, the Invitation to Tender (ITT) documents for the CHFS contract are expected to be published by the Scottish Government by the end of the summer this year, 2015. Unusually for a public sector contract, the ITT specifications for the next CHFS contract will not be subject to public or any other form of consultation.

It is therefore essential that employment protections (which provide for the Scottish Government to ‘claw back’ any savings that a new operator might make from redundancies and/or cuts to terms and conditions of staff) and observance of existing pension rights (which Serco unsuccessfully attempted to attack shortly after being handed the Northern Isles contract in 2012) are included in the CHFS ITT documents.

RMT, STUC and the CalMac unions last week, Wednesday 4th February briefed MSPs on the threat to CalMac workers’ and communities’ livelihoods from the ideological pursuit of re-tendering in the Scottish ferries industry. The RMT National Secretary, Regional Organiser and CalMac Convenor spoke at the event which was attended by MSPs from all parties apart from the Scottish Tories and Lib Dems. MSPs present supported the unions’ case for opposing privatisation and ending the destabilising, expensive and unpopular re-tendering process. A copy of the briefing that was circulated to MSPs ahead of this event is attached for information.

It should be noted, particularly by our CalMac members that if RMT do not receive, through the Pensions Working Group or other official channels the basic assurances from the SNP Government over maintaining existing contractual employment and pension protections for our members in the ITT and CHFS contract, then a serious industrial situation will arise. We expect to know either way by March.

I would be grateful if you could bring this to the attention of all members in your branch and I will keep you advised of further developments on the re-tender of the CHFS contract.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary