24th February 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Union members on NorthLink ships to be balloted on Thursday

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NorthLink crews will be balloted on strike action on Thursday as fears continue over terms and conditions for workers following the take-over of the North Boats contract by Serco.

Leaders of the RMT Union insist repeated requests for national level discussions over potential job losses, zero hours contracts, flexibility and versatility have been turned down.

They say an agreement from Serco to honour members’ pension entitlement was made after a “sustained campaign of pressure” by the union.

In addition, union members working on NorthLink vessels will not be expected to transfer to other vessels operated by Serco in the UK or beyond.

The company’s current position is that there will be no assurances regarding redundancies in the future. Zero hours contracts are also something they will seek to introduce and all aspects of working conditions will be reviewed.

The closing date for ballot papers to be returned has been set for 9th August.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Serco Northlink are fully aware that we will not accept attacks on our members’ jobs and conditions and what is a de facto attempt to bulldoze through the casualisation of these skilled shipping grades. We have no option now but to ballot in the face of this threat to our members future livelihoods.”

RMT national secretary Steve Todd added: “RMT will not stand back while staff caught in the middle of this ill-conceived privatisation stitch-up are kicked from pillar to post in the dash to maximise profits.

“The public will understand that it is jobs and conditions today and will be cuts to services and increases to fares tomorrow. Serco should take up the offer of national level talks to resolve this dispute.”

Serco NorthLink managing director Stuart Garrett said: “Despite the short timescale from contract award to start up we successfully achieved transition on 5th July.

“This was done with the co-operation of the total workforce. Now we have the opportunity to fully engage with our staff and representative organisations, particularly the RMT and Nautilus, in further exploring the opportunities to translate our contract proposals in to business deliverables.

“It is understandable that in any process, particularly involving a change in contract, that there will be uncertainties. With clarity of communication and the establishment of open dialogue I look forward to developing these plans in a collaborative fashion.”

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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