Monday, April 6, 2020

Freight and Passenger Ferry Company Announces Redundancies and Furloughed Staff

Union Warns Operator to Tread with Caution
Shipping News Feature

UK – IRELAND – Having made much last week of how it was going to maintain the bulk of its European freight and passenger ferry services, this week Stena Line has announced that it plan to furlough 600 employees with 150 redundancies across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The move has met with some disapproval from the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) whose union represents the company's shore based employees.

Stena says the measure is an unavoidable response to the on-going global Covid-19 crisis that has had a hugely damaging effect on travel and transport across Europe. Those furloughed will maintain 80% of salaries, where UK and Irish government schemes don’t cover the full amount, the remainder will be paid by the firm. Furlough will also be used to help vulnerable employees, such those that need to self-isolate due to underlying health conditions, those that are pregnant, and where possible, those with caring responsibilities due to Covid-19.

Last month Stena Line announced redundancies that will affect 950 people employed in Scandinavia. A number of these employees have since also been furloughed. Further job losses have subsequently been made in Denmark and the Baltics. The company is evaluating its operations in all regions and does not rule out that there could be further furlough, redundancy or changes to its current sailing schedules or routes.

In line with the UK’s Job Retention Scheme all employees placed on Furlough Leave will receive 80% of their salaries paid by the government capped at £2,500 per month. However, Stena Line have agreed to maintain all salaries at 80%. Meanwhile employees in the Republic of Ireland will receive the Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, which provides for up to 70% of wages to a maximum of €410 per week. Stena Line will also maintain all its Irish employees' salaries up to 80%, to ensure that employees earnings are matched in both countries.

Since the crisis emerged Stena Line has experienced a large decline in travel bookings and freight volumes. It is estimated that passenger figures will not recover until well into 2021. As a result of the significant reduction in revenue, the firm says it was forced to take tough decisions in order to cut costs and ensure that their vital supply lines of essential goods in Europe.

The notice was met with disappointment by the TSSA which published the letter sent today by Ian J. Hampton, Stena Line’s Chief People & Communications Officer to all staff affected, in full, with TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, commenting:

“We fully understand the huge financial impact of Coronavirus. Our union will work with Stena to seek to avoid the need for any redundancies. We welcome the fact that Stena is proposing that employees should be furloughed as an alternative to redundancies, but are naturally concerned that redundancies are proposed anyway.

”We stand ready to assist Stena in making representations to governments in London and Dublin to ensure vital sea links remain open, and we believe that both governments should offer assistance to the company in these unfortunate circumstances.

“Stena has refused to rule out a further increase in furlough leave, redundancies and changes to timetables and/or the route network. I’d simply urge bosses to tread with caution at this time, to ensure that everything possible is done so the company and our members can get through this crisis together. It’s also crucial that Ministers in Britain and Ireland are proactive in ensuring important transport links are maintained at this critical time.”