RMT on Wightlink's reluctance to take up taxpayer support

RMT on Wightlink's reluctance to take up taxpayer support

1 February 2021

RMT Press Office:

RMT expresses shock and disgust at Wightlink’s reluctance to take up taxpayer support as members prepare for strike action over attack on conditions.

WIGHTLINK UNION RMT expressed shock and disgust today over lifeline ferry company Wightlink’s dismissal of public funding which could help ease the financial pressure created by the pandemic.

The union is currently in dispute with the company and has announced a raft of strike dates from April over an attack on pensions, terms and conditions. The union has been appalled by the cavalier attitude of the company to consultation over their plans and the failure to take up financial support ‎that could have mitigated the current situation.

On 15 January, the Treasury announced £6.5m to keep ferry services running between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. This is the second package of state funding for Wightlink and other lifeline operators during the pandemic.

Yet footage has emerged online of Wightlink CEO, Keith Greenfield describing the £6.5m pot as “…numbers I don’t recognise from the scheme details I’ve seen.” And that it is “unclear” how Wightlink and other Solent operators can access this support.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“Senior management at Wightlink are exploiting the second wave of the crisis by trying to force through permanent contractual changes and pension cuts which my members have rejected.

“Wightlink’s loyal staff gave up pay and mucked in to see the company through the first wave of the pandemic and now they see the employer turning their nose up at public funds to maintain the supply chain and links to emergency NHS treatment during a second, deadlier wave of Covid-19.

“This is no way to run a lifeline ferry service in a time of deepening crisis and I urge the employer to take up unconditional financial support from the taxpayer and then get back around the negotiating table with RMT.”


Notes for editors 
On 15 th January, the  Treasury announced £6.5m to keep ferry services running between the mainland and the Isle of Wight.
Commenting on the Government’s announcement, Wightlink CEO Keith Greenfield commented (c3mins 30secs) during an online webinar with staff on 21 January 2021, posted on the company’s You Tube channel:
Over 400 workers,  from seafarer to ticket office grade are in dispute following the employers’ refusal to withdraw proposals to:
•         close the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme to existing members; and
•         reintroduce flexible working practices which all employees were subject to in the first six months of the pandemic.
At the height of the first wave of the pandemic (April to September), Wightlink employees also loaned 20% of their salary and gave up terms and conditions for 6 months to allow the company to keep trading. The company have chosen to repay the generosity of their employees by slashing their pension rights and making permanent changes which undermine working conditions.
Wightlink received taxpayer support from the £10.5m  announced by the Department for Transport in April for lifeline ferry operators to the Isle of Wight and to the Isles of Scilly to maintain services in the first wave of the pandemic. 
Wightlink has continued to pay out millions of pounds in dividends to its various private equity owners, extracting funds from the company that should be used to support the hard working staff who have maintained Wightlink’s lifeline supply chains in these unprecedented times.
Following a ballot of members over Wightlink’s proposed changes to pensions and working practices, RMT members voted to take strike action in number which exceeded the anti-trade union thresholds. As a result, the union has set a series of strike dates for Wightlink Ltd and Wightlink (Guernsey) Ltd on:
  • 00:01 hours on Friday 2nd April 2021 to 23:59 hours on Monday 5th April 2021
  • 00:01 hours to 23:59 hours on Friday 28th May 2021
  • 00:01 hours to 23:59 hours on Monday 31st May 2021
  • 00:01 hours on Friday 4th June 2021 to 23:59 hours on Sunday 6th June 2021
  • 00:01 hours on Friday 11th June 2021 to 23:59 hours on Sunday 13th 2021
  • 00:01 hours on Friday 18th June 2021 to 23:59 hours on Sunday 20th June 2021
  • 00:01 hours on Friday 25th June 2021 to 23:59 hours on Sunday 27th June 2021
The company are aware that as always, RMT remains available for talks and is ready to enter into negotiations in order resolve the current dispute. 
The table below lists the profits, dividends and annual wage of the highest paid director at Wightlink Limited, based on annual accounts submitted to Companies House. RMT members are employed by Wightlink (Guernsey) by they are part of the same Group.
The Highest Paid Director earned £348,000 in 2018-19 which is over 15x what a Sales and Reservations Officers at Wightlink earns today (£22,808 pa).
In July 2019 Canadian private equity outfit Fiera Infrastructure acquired a 50% stake in Wightlink. 
Basalt Infrastructure (formerly Balfour Beatty Infrastructure) own the other 50%, having paid £230m for 100% ownership of the company in 2015.
Wightlink Limited Finances 2015-19
Year [1]
Pre-tax Profits (£m)
Dividends (£m)
Highest Paid Director
2014-15 10.034 None £714,000
2015-16 13.684 11.750 £278,000
2016-17 21.771[2] 14.200 £233,000
2017-18 15.040 15.300 £334,000
2018-19 16.654 14.494 £348,000
TOTAL £77.183m £55.744m £1.907m
[1] Latest accounts cover period to 31 March 2019
[1]  Includes tax rebate of £4.041m

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Tagged with: Wightlink, Ferries, Covid-19, Strike Action,