Thursday, November 28, 2019

Bid to Buy RoRo Freight and Passenger Ferry Company Attracts Maritime Union Hostility

Latest in Ongoing Protests to be Held This Week
Shipping News Feature

UK – Even when we first started to publish maritime union objections to the terms of employment at Condor Ferries back in 2014, the dispute over the wages paid to crew on what the union view as essentially a British domestic RoRo freight and passengers service, had been simmering for a while.

Since that time there have been repeated demonstrations by members of the RMT Union and, any excuse the company offered that because the services included French mainland destinations it was truly international, would seem to also place the Channel Islands as outside the UK for its purposes, something the unions would doubtless disagree on.

Now the argument is hotting up as news comes that Brittany Ferries and US-owned investment fund Columbia Threadneedle have agreed to buy Condor Ferries in a deal that could be worth up to £300 million prompting yet another protest against what the RMT calls ‘the company’s exploitative and anti-trade union business model’. Brittany Ferries itself has not been immune to union actions and has had service links previously with Condor.

Condor Ferries contract is with the Jersey and Guernsey governments for lifeline ferry services from Portsmouth (freight) and Poole (passengers) to the Channel Islands. Channel Island businesses, including Tesco, Co-op, Iceland and Waitrose rely upon Condor’s freight services and 95% of everything consumed on the Channel Islands arrives from council-owned Portsmouth International Port.

The RMT claim Ukrainian seafarers currently working on the Condor fleet for 2-month periods are still being paid below the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for a 12-hour working day, 7-day week living on the ship and without trade union or pension rights. Standard practice in the UK ferry industry is for safe roster patterns of equal time on and time off for seafarers, no longer than two weeks, to avoid fatigue and other factors detrimental to seafarer health and passenger safety.

The union has scheduled its latest protest to target Condor’s morning sailings on Saturday 30th November at 07:30 for a demonstration from 8am at Portsmouth International Port, George Byng Way, Portsmouth PO2 8SP. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

“The Condor protest in Portsmouth is part of RMT’s SOS 2020 campaign which highlights exploitation of workers in the shipping industry. Only 15% of the 80,560 Ratings jobs in the UK shipping industry are held by UK seafarers. The vast majority are foreign nationals being exploited by crewing agents currently used by companies like Condor to work on-board for months on end for below the minimum wage.

“RMT will be calling on Condor’s new owners to make a fresh start with this lifeline service and work with UK and French maritime unions and the Channel Island governments to deliver a new contract that increases and improves jobs and services across Condor’s operations.”