Anger as ferry jobs go south
By NEIL RIDDELL
FOUR jobs look set to go at NorthLink’s Lerwick office after the company decided to close its finance operation in the isles.
A company spokesman confirmed the posts would go sometime early in the New Year and the work would be transferred to the offices of NorthLink’s parent company David MacBrayne Ltd (DML) in Gourock and Aberdeen.
SIC convener Sandy Cluness reacted angrily to the news and said the council would be making the “strongest possible representations” to NorthLink for the jobs to be retained in Lerwick, while Shetland MSP Tavish Scott also voiced his concern. Mr Scott said he and Mr Cluness wanted to work hard together to make the case for the jobs to be kept in the isles.
It is understood that two of the four positions were recently vacated by staff leaving the company’s Lerwick offices to take up new employment. None of the four posts will be replaced but in a letter sent to staff regarding the changes, interim finance director Colin Donald claimed: “This is not a cost-saving move by DML.”
Northlink, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of DML, took over the service from P&O in 2002 and was re-awarded the contract in July 2006. At the time, chief executive Bill Davidson said all jobs were secure in the short and medium term.
The finance team has worked out of Lerwick for the past six years, initially as stand-alone NorthLink company Northlink Orkney & Shetland Ferries Ltd. But following its incorporation into the DML group, which also includes Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries, a decision was taken to “reshape the function” of its finance operation.
NorthLink’s spokesman said the redundancies were “unavoidable”. He said: “The new arrangements were not entered into lightly and were arrived at only after careful consideration.”
The contract to operate ferry services between Shetland, Orkney and the mainland is not due to go out to tender again until 2012.
During the last tendering process, an academic report called for the passenger ferries Hjaltland and Hrossey to be replaced after branding them among the most inefficient ships built in recent years.
There was strong criticism from some quarters of Mr Scott, who was then transport minister for Scotland. But because the process was at such an advanced stage, councillors who condemned the ships as “not fit for purpose” did not call for the contract specification to be altered, instead saying they hoped new ferries could be built or sourced in time for the next six-year contract getting underway.