24 May 2018
RMT Press Office:
RMT reaction to today’s ministerial statement on Northern Isles Ferry contract
NORTHLINK FERRIES UNION RMT today reacted to the ministerial statement from Humza Yousaf MSP, announcing that the next public contract for the Northern Isles Ferry services from the mainland to Orkney and Shetland will be put out to tender.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said:
“We are disappointed by the Scottish Government’s reluctance to take the Northern Isles contract in-house on a permanent basis.
“We will continue the fight to release lifeline Scottish ferry services from the pro-private restrictions of EU tendering requirements and for full protection of our members’ jobs, pensions and terms and conditions as we enter another expensive and unnecessary tendering process.
“We look forward to a positive campaign in support of the public sector bid to Nationalise NorthLink in the long-term interests of passengers, workers, communities, businesses and taxpayers on Orkney, Shetland and mainland Scotland.”
Steve Todd, RMT National Secretary, commented:
“A Teckal exemption would have provided our members, as well as residents and businesses on Orkney and Shetland, with certainty for the long term. That certainty is absent under Carillion-style outsourcers Serco, who will not divulge profit margins or even how much they spend on dry dock maintenance of the Northern Isles fleet under the current, extended contract.
"Scottish Government policy is moving toward public operation of the NIFS contract, with the introduction of subsidised fares on NIFS routes and the purchase of the Hamnavoe, Hjaltland and Hrossey passenger vessels. This investment is necessary to protect and improve lifeline ferry services in the Northern Isles and must be accompanied by a successful public sector bid.
“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government on the specifications in the contract that will be put out to tender.”
Notes to Editors
1. The Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS) contract contains four lifeline passenger and freight ferry routes from the mainland (Aberdeen and Stromness) to Orkney and Shetland. RMT organise seafarer and some shore based grades at NorthLink.
2. RMT legal advice is that public contracts for lifeline Scottish ferry services can be brought into permanent public operation using a ‘Teckal exemption’ from EU tendering and state aid regulations.
3. The Scottish Government’s Ferry Law Review’s interim findings on 20 December 2017 committed to pursuing the legal case for permanent in-house operation on the Clyde and Hebrides contract operated by CalMac, but was skeptical about permanent in-house operation of the NIFS contract.
4. The Ferry Law Review also announced an 18-month extension to Serco NorthLink’s existing NIFS contract, which they have operated since July 2012 with an increased subsidy compared to the operator of the 2006-12 contract, the public sector operator David MacBrayne.
5. During the previous tender process for the current NIFS contract, Transport Scotland returned incumbent David MacBrayne’s bid unopened.