Tuesday, September 20, 2016

UK Transport Union Claims Rewards of Freight and Passenger RoRo Ferry Victory

Meanwhile in Canada Future Work and Conditions for All Maritime Staff are Discussed
Shipping News Feature
UK – CANADA – WORLDWIDE – Two major pieces of news this week concerning workers within the maritime sector. One hundred and thirty maritime workers from across 56 countries are meeting in Montreal, Canada to discuss and help shape the future of trade union campaigning in the industry, whilst in Scotland tempers flared over the rewards which ferry workers on some vital freight and passenger routes are to receive after a successful campaign to support the existing management at RoRo outfit CalMac.

Firstly that big union gathering, the second ever International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Maritime Roundtable (MRT) which brings together activists from affiliated unions from all continents. Paddy Crumlin, ITF president and chair of the dockers section, explained:

“Dockers and seafarers face more potential issues at work than ever before: automation, subcontracting, the race to the bottom on health and safety standards, the rise of multinationals. Employers are thinking about profit margins, and in a lot of cases that’s it. If it means workers are impacted then so be it. There has to be someone there that says that’s not OK and that’s us, maritime trade unionists. We’re here to fight the fights that need fighting to ensure safe, fair workplaces for ordinary people.”

Sujata Dey, lead trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians, is also due to attend the opening of the MRT. The maritime activists will take to the streets of Montreal on Wednesday 21 September in a rally to celebrate the gains made by trade unions for ordinary people. Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) president Jim Given said:

“We are proud to host trade unionists from all over the world. This week they will join us in rallying in Montreal to give a simple message, trade unionists are the voice of the 99%, the ordinary working men and women whose voices are being drowned out by the 1%, the richest in society. One maritime example is the proposed free trade agreements in Canada that would have a huge impact on the shipping industry, and ultimately on workers, both in and outside the country. The bottom line is we want fair trade not free trade.”

Meanwhile in Scotland temperatures rose last week as talks broke down between the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), and ferry operator CalMac. The RMT, along with other trades unions Nautilus and Unite cooperated with management in an ultimately victorious battle against the possible transfer of freight and passenger services on the Clyde and Hebridean routes to the Serco organisation under a new contract commencing on October 1. Caledonian MacBrayne told the union that the successful bid for the routes was based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and future pay offers would based on this index as opposed to the Retail Price Index (RPI) which the union says is the traditional benchmark used in pay negotiations.

The RMT walked out of talks saying this was an attempt to impose Scottish Government inspired austerity measures on the workforce and, to add insult to injury, CalMac had suspended the traditional bonus, normally a 1.5% addition to the wage packet if the ferry company returned a profit. The union says this has been an established practice for over a decade and additionally claimed that staff not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, which includes all the senior managers and directors, will continue to receive a bonus.

The company eventually made a final offer of 1.8% each year of a two year proposed deal. This is the August 2016 RPI inflation figure. The union claims ‘most analysts’ are currently forecasting inflation will rise to between 2.6% and 3.3% by the end of 2017 which it says means staff pay will fall behind the cost of living. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;

“It's clear to everyone that RMT members played a huge role in the campaign that led to CalMac beating off the attempt to wrestle the life-line ferry services away from them. These pay and bonus proposals from management are a kick in the teeth for those loyal and dedicated RMT CalMac members and will be resisted by all means necessary. All four CalMac Trade Unions are in dispute with the company and we will now be deciding the next moves as we move the campaign for pay justice forwards. RMT’s negotiating team remain available for talks with the company to resolve this dispute."

This week the mood seems to have lightened somewhat and a spokesman for the company told the Handy Shipping Guide that it was hopeful of an amicable settlement as talks continue between the parties.

Photo: A member of CalMac’s staff guide another driver onto the Leverburgh, Harris to Berneray, North Uist ferry.