Friday, November 20, 2015

Scottish Freight and Passenger Ferry Services Remain in the Headlines

Unions Say Safety and Maintenance Standards Will Suffer if Incumbent Operator Loses Out
Shipping News Feature

UK – The bid for the Clyde and Hebridean freight and passenger ferry services are under the spotlight again this week with union plans to lobby the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 25 November in support of the incumbent operator, Calmac, which has run the service since 2007. Previously the Caledonian MacBrayne team had been involved with virtually all Scottish domestic ferry routes for many years. The latest protest is timed to coincide with a Parliamentary debate on the tender process for the services which could see the private outfit Serco taking over from the public sector operator.

Last week in a broadside to the Serco bid the RMT union called the company ‘specialists in failure’ and again it is pulling no punches saying Serco has ‘an appalling track record in public services which has seen them investigated and banned from bidding for Westminster contracts.’ The RMT is currently locked into a separate dispute with Serco over a wide range of safety and maintenance failures on their recently-acquired Caledonian Sleeper rail operation. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“The fight is now on to save Calmac’s lifeline Clyde and Hebrides services from being snatched away by Serco, the specialists in failure. The idea that this company are fit to run our public services is ridiculous and the truth is that they shouldn’t even be in the frame for these ferry routes.

“RMT continues to press for the tendering timetable to be sharpened up to allow for an announcement before the elections next year so that the public can judge the merits of any decision for themselves. There is no excuse for delaying the announcement which has huge implications for the communities which rely on these ferry services.

The maintenance of a reliable, safe and efficient service is sometimes literally a life or death matter to the communities living in the Hebrides and with the planned lobby due to take place at 1:30 pm all islanders’ eyes will be turned toward Edinburgh. RMT National Secretary Steve Todd, who will be present at the Parliament commented:

“On Wednesday we will be taking our message direct to the Scottish Parliament that there are no grounds whatsoever for letting an outfit like Serco anywhere near the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services. Their charge sheet is as long as your arm and that dismal record of failure should be automatic grounds for exclusion from this tendering process which is costly, destabilising and unnecessary. RMT will continue to mobilise around this high-profile campaign to keep Calmac public.”