Trade Dispute with Argyll Ferries

Trade Dispute with Argyll Ferries

3 July 2015


Our Ref: SH/15/4

Our Ref: SH/15/4

3rd July 2015
Dear Colleague,

Trade Dispute with Argyll Ferries

Following the industrial action taken by you and your colleagues between Wednesday 24th and Friday 26th June, you will be aware that RMT has been in discussions with the Company in an effort to resolve this dispute but regrettably, the most basic assurances that we require to protect your job security, conditions of service and pensions are still not forthcoming.

As a result, the Union has taken the decision to call on all Argyll Ferries members to take industrial action as follows:-

•    Not to ‘turn to’ (book on) for any duty that commences between 00:01 hours and 23:59 hours on Friday 10th July 2015. To clarify, if your shift starts between 00:01 and 23:59 hours on Friday 10th July 2015 then you do not start and do not book on for any part of your shift. If your shift has started before 00:01 on Friday 10th July then you book on as normal and complete your shift.

NB:  During the above period of industrial action members must ensure that the safety of the ship is maintained at all times.

You will also have received a letter from the Company yesterday giving their position on the dispute. The union’s response, to each of the four points in Martin Dorchester’s letter are as follows:

1. Current pension arrangements will not be altered without agreement

If CalMac are serious about resolving this dispute they would agree to this point, as changes to any pension scheme should only ever be accepted with agreement of the recognised trade unions. All we are asking is for your pension, in terms of how much you pay in to it, the benefits you get out of it and the age at which you retire, to be protected and for any proposed changes to be agreed with us first, on your behalf. It’s puzzling why CalMac cannot agree to this, unless of course they have another plan for your pension. Separately, as you know the union continues to negotiate with the Scottish Government for full protection of your pension rights in the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the CHFS contract which is due to be published Friday 10th July. It’s also worth noting that earlier this year full protection of existing pension entitlements for staff was agreed as part of the contract for ScotRail services between the Scottish Government and Abellio.

2. CalMac workers to remain employed by CalMac, regardless of the outcome to the tender of the CHFS contract
We continue to argue this point with the company, as our legal advice is that your contracts of employment could stay with CalMac, even if the contract is privatised. We have asked the company to investigate this option further and are happy to share our legal advice on this point with them, although they have not asked for it to date. Linking this point to the success of the CalMac bid is simple scaremongering by the employer. Only the Scottish Government can award the CHFS contract, of course and there is massive public support for the actions CalMac workers have taken and for keeping CalMac services in the public sector.

3. No less favourable terms and conditions in the CHFS bid, unless changes are agreed first with RMT

Again, you have to ask why a reasonable employer would not want to agree contractual changes to staff terms and conditions with the recognised trade union. Claiming that CalMac agreement to this demand would jeopardise their CHFS bid is misleading and an attempt to cow RMT members into taking their valid claims off the table. Unless the company knows something different which they are not saying in discussion of the dispute with the union, agreeing to this claim would not damage the company’s CHFS bid. This is a legitimate claim that any sensible union would make on behalf of its members and it is also inaccurate for the company to claim the unions, RMT and TSSA have rejected an option to strengthen protections for employees. The wording Mr Dorchester refers to was not a serious attempt to strengthen those protections of your employment or pension rights. And the union is fighting now for the highest possible protection of your terms and conditions and the lifeline ferry services themselves in the ITT for the CHFS contract which would limit the detrimental impact of privatisation. We have massive public support for your actions and the anti-privatisation campaign and the company’s attempt to link our dispute to the success of their bid is unhelpful.

4. Insert clause into CalMac workers’ employment contracts (a) no compulsory redundancies and no redundancies without prior RMT agreement and (b) no changes to conditions of service without prior RMT agreement
The union did not ‘flatly reject’ the company’s offer to include a no compulsory redundancy commitment in its bid for the CHFS contract. We in fact welcomed it but this is meaningless if CalMac does not win the contract as a result of this unnecessary, costly and deeply unsettling tendering process. A ‘salami slice’ approach to settling the demands in this dispute is not in the interests of CalMac workers and comprehensive protection of your terms and conditions of service. It should also be noted that the union has secured commitments to no compulsory redundancies with a number of employers in the transport industry, most recently in the franchise agreement for ScotRail services. On point (b), the company is again scaremongering in response to a standard industrial demand from the recognised trade union.

Your action to protect staff and services at CalMac continues to receive a massive level of public support. In tandem, we are taking the steps required to ensure that CalMac members and their colleagues are protected during this uncertain period and that corners are not cut in providing lifeline ferry services in the public sector for the life of the next CHFS contract.    

I repeat that we have solid public and cross party political support for our actions in CalMac to defend jobs, pensions and services, as well as for the wider campaign to keep the next CHFS contract in the public sector with CalMac.

With regard to Argyll Ferries, the pensions of workers at this company are also under attack from CalMac. In addition, the longer term employment protections for Argyll Ferries are unclear, as both the Scottish Government and Martin Dorchester of CalMac have repeatedly avoided the union’s request for clarity of the impact on Argyll Ferries should the CHFS contract be privatised. Whilst Gourock-Dunoon services provided by Argyll Ferries are tendered separately from the CHFS contract, CalMac provide essential crewing, maintenance and other operational support to Argyll Ferries. If Serco is awarded the CHFS contract there would clearly be significant implications for staff at Argyll Ferries, albeit indirect.    

I urge you to continue your magnificent support for your union and solidarity with your colleagues in this dispute.


Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary

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