by Gordon Martin, Regional Organiser, RMT • Following on from RMT’s high profile and ultimately successful campaign to “Keep CalMac Public” the Union is now heavily involved in a campaign to bring the Northern Isles Ferry Service into public ownership.
This lifeline ferry service under the control of Serco since they were controversially awarded the franchise in 2012 by the SNP Government has seen the subsidy provided increase while passenger and freight volumes have decreased and the frequency of weekly sailings has also decreased which of course is detrimental to the Northern Islands citizens.
RMT make no apologies for having the firmly held and principled position that lifeline ferries in Scotland should be under the full democratic control of the people of Scotland through our elected politicians at Holyrood and have stated our case in robust terms to the Transport Minister and Transport Scotland officials at every opportunity during the Ferry Review Process.
Our aim with regard to the NIFS contract is to achieve more frequent, affordable and reliable ferries to the Northern Isles on properly staffed vessels where every worker has terms and conditions negotiated under a collective bargaining agreement.
Further, RMT also believe collective bargaining arrangements should be extended to cover all shore based staff associated with the NIFS contract and we believe public ownership is the most effective way of securing this now and for future generations of seafarers.
The current NIFS contract has three passenger ferries as well as two freight vessels. The freight vessels have for a number of years been crewed by seafarers from eastern Europe who were disgracefully paid a pittance.
Following on from RMT pressure both behind the scenes and through a very public protest at the constituency office of an MSP and MP in Aberdeen last year with the threat of many more to follow these exploited mariners are now paid the living wage.
RMT stand by our legal advice that under a Teckal exemption from EU competition and state aid laws the Scottish Government could desist from putting this contract and all future lifeline ferry contracts out to a tendering exercise and could simply bring the service in house through the publicly owned David MacBrayne who are the operators of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service under the CalMac brand.
With an online petition and a postcard which asks constituents to write to MSPs in support of our campaign as well as our intention to hold public meetings on Orkney, Shetland and Aberdeen in 2018 I am confident we can exert enough pressure on the Scottish Government to have the courage to back up their words and bring the service “ in house”.
With up to £4million pounds of additional subsidy going into the NIFS contract through the introduction of road equivalent tariff from 2018 surely now is the time to ensure every penny goes into the service and not a penny goes to Serco shareholders.
Nationalise Northlink Ferries now is RMT’s demand and we ask you to help in any way you possibly can.
• Sign the petition