18 October 2017
RMT Press Office:
MARITIME UNION RMT is launching a campaign to nationalise Scotland’s Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS). The contract is currently held by corporate giants Serco.
The lifeline ferry route services the people, staff and business of Orkney, Shetland and the mainland. In 2016, the fleet of 5 vessels carried over 300,000 passengers and over 60,000 vehicles on three routes.
Serco NorthLink received around a 10% increase in subsidy and no taxpayer clawback to operate the 2012-18 contract. Yet fewer passengers and vehicles are being carried, and reliability and punctuality are below the standard set by the previous operator, David MacBrayne.
A petition calling for the Northern Isles Ferry Service contract to be returned to public operation, when the current 2012-18 contract with Serco NorthLink expires, has been launched by RMT and can be found at http://bit.ly/natnorthlink
Scotland's publicly contracted ferry services carried over 5.5 million passengers and 1.5 million vehicles, including road freight in 2016. Audit Scotland estimate the annual subsidy to be around £153m. Lifeline ferry services are crucial links between remote island communities and the mainland, enabling people to visit family, work and access health, education and other services.
The union is also launching a postcard campaign calling on MSP’s to support the campaign for publicly owned and operated ferry services in northern Scotland.
RMT National Secretary Steve Todd said:
“It is a scandal that these essential transport services are in the hands of profiteers. The people of northern Scotland deserve affordable public transport.
“Only this week we learnt that freight operators will continue to be locked out of the taxpayer-subsidised Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) which Northern Isles passengers will receive from 2018. Passengers and businesses on CalMac services off the west coast of Scotland will also be hit with this fares increase, despite RET having been introduced two years ago across the CHFS network.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT members are proud to deliver this service for local communities and visitors.
“The Northern Isles communities deserve lower fares, more frequent sailings and improved on-board services, on properly staffed and funded vessels. We believe a growing and more reliable service can only be achieved through public ownership and operation and that is why we are launching this campaign.”