Scottish Ferries update

Circular No: NP/014/19


Our Ref: S2/1/2/3

15th January 2019

Dear Colleagues

Scottish Ferries update

Further to Circular No. NP/096/18 of 25th May 2018, I write with an update on recent developments on the public contracts for Gourock-Dunoon, Northern Isles, Clyde and Hebrides and Orkney Ferries.

Gourock-Dunoon: Transport Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP announced late last month that he would be scrapping the halted tender process and directly awarding the Gourock-Dunoon contract to CalMac. The union has held consultative meetings with members and the company and the TUPE transfer of staff to CalMac Ferries Ltd will take place on 21st January 2019.

This move is welcomed by RMT members currently employed by Argyll Ferries. Your union also welcomes the Scottish Government’s direct award of this contract, which contrasts with the tender process affecting RMT members on the NIFS contract. The Gourock-Dunoon contract awarded to CalMac is for a foot passenger service only, due to the Scottish Government’s concerns over State Aid restrictions.

Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS): RMT met with Transport Scotland officials in December to discuss the specifications we all want to see in the tender documents. Progress was made in confirming protections under TUPE and agreeing protections against cuts to terms and conditions, redundancies and pension rights over the life of the contract from October 2019. Your union’s demands for an annual Ratings training target and mental health training for all NorthLink staff were also accepted.

However, the Scottish Government would not agree to a requirement in the next NIFS contract for the existing CBA with RMT to be extended to cover chartered freight vessels and all sub-contracted cleaning and security staff that work on the NIFS passenger ferry fleet, all of which are now publicly owned.

Last week, the Scottish Government issued the Invitation to Tender (ITT) to bidders for the next NIFS contract. We are going through the parts of the document released to the recognised trade unions, RMT and Nautilus, to confirm what was agreed at the meeting in December. We will assess our position after this in the context of the Nationalise NorthLink campaign.

Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS): The pressure on our members and CalMac services from ever increasing passenger numbers on an ageing fleet continues. As a result, the continued delay in delivery and cost overrun of CMAL’s order for two new ferries from Ferguson Marine for the Ardrossan-Brodick and Uig-Tarbert/Lochmaddy routes is extremely frustrating.

The average age of the CalMac fleet is 23 years and our members, as well as passengers and communities need a vessel replacement and deployment programme that works for them. We will be taking this message to the Scottish Government, including as part of their review of the Road Equivalent Tariff scheme later this year.

The direct award of the Gourock-Dunoon contract mentioned earlier means that this service will be part of the CHFS bundle from 21st January. This will have some impact on your union’s campaign for a ‘Teckal’ exemption from EU tendering and State Aid rules for the CHFS and all other publicly funded Scottish ferry contracts. We will continue to pursue the case for bringing CHFS and all publicly funded ferry services under permanent public ownership and operation with the Scottish Government.

Orkney Ferries: Your union continues to work to find a solution to the funding and vessel replacement problems affecting members and inter-island services on Orkney. The Scottish Government’s priorities for ferries in the 2019-20 budget only extend to cutting fares for passengers in Orkney and the total annual budget for vessels and piers across the national ferry network has been cut by £11.8m. Your union will continue to press local and national politicians to agree funding and vessel replacement policies which provide long term security for our members on Orkney Ferries, as well as the communities they live in and serve.

I would be grateful if you could bring the content of this circular to all members in your Branch and you will be updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely


Mick Cash
General Secretary