Row over pay offer to Calmac ferry workers on Western Isles routes

Passing ships – Calmac ferries coming and going from their home port at Oban, Argyll.

Pictures by Bill Heaney

By Democrat reporter

Unions have called on west coast ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) to make an improved pay offer to staff.

The RMT and TSSA have rejected a 0.5% rise saying it failed to recognise work to keep lifeline services going during the Covid pandemic.

CalMac, the UK’s largest ferry operator, runs routes serving communities in the Western Isles, west Highlands and Argyll and Bute.

The company said it had made a “fair and reasonable” pay offer.

CalMac runs 29 routes and a fleet of 33 vessels. During lockdown earlier this year, it operated a reduced service to ensure key workers and supplies reached island communities.

‘Miserly’ offer

The company is a subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, which is owned by Scottish ministers.

The unions have described the pay offer to staff as “miserly” and have called on CalMac to negotiate a new deal through the conciliation service, Acas.

The RMT said workers deserved an “acceptable pay offer in recognition of their risking their own health and safety during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “I would urge the senior management at CalMac to get back round the negotiating table in an honest attempt to reach a settlement.

“If this means they need to make the justifiable case to the Scottish government to reach agreement on a fair and reasonable pay award for their workforce then they need to get on and do exactly that.”

‘Open to dialogue’

The TSSA said CalMac’s offer was “Scrooge-like”.

The union’s Manuel Cortes said “I’m disappointed that CalMac have opted not to use Acas’ services in order to resolve the pay dispute with us.”

CalMac said it was “open to dialogue” with all the unions representing its employees.

Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, said: “We have made a fair and reasonable offer to staff reflecting the cost of living.

“CalMac has suffered significant and unprecedented financial pressures due to Covid-19 and it is likely that these will continue to have an impact for some time.

“Despite this, we are committed to rewarding staff in recognition of their determination to provide a high quality and safe lifeline service during an extremely difficult period.”

Transport Scotland said CalMac’s pay policy was outside the coverage of the Scottish government’s pay policy and was a matter for the company and unions.

A spokesman said: “We would urge management and unions to continue to engage in meaningful dialogue to reach a mutually agreeable outcome that avoids impacting staff and ferry users at an already difficult time for communities served by CalMac.”

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