20th May 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Ferry strikes set to go ahead

Inter-island ferry users look set to face travel disruption with ferry workers due to start industrial action on Friday.

Following a ballot on industrial action, 12 ferry mates, who are members of the Unite union, have decided to refuse to act up as Masters and may not work overtime to cover annual sick leave.

They will also strike each Wed­nes­day morning from 6am to 9am from 17th December to 4th March 2015.

The council said the industrial action, in particular the weekly strike, is likely to have a significant impact on local ferry services, especially as it falls on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The SIC said it had worked hard over the past six years to address concerns raised by this staff group.

“However, the council has a legal duty to pay equal pay for equal work under the Single Status Collective Agreement, and cannot break that agreement by regrading individual staff groups on demand.

“The council requested that Unite attend mediation with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the union has now agreed to that; however, this will not happen before the industrial action begins.”

Chairman of the SIC’s environ­ment and transport committe, Michael Stout, said: “It is extremely disap­pointing that we find ourselves in this position, as we have done every­thing we possibly can to resolve the situation.
“I appreciate that mates on our ferries feel that they were treated unfairly under the Single Status Collective Agreement by not receiv­ing a pay rise. Very early on it was mooted that mates could be regraded at a higher rate, but that wasn’t the eventual outcome, and that was upheld at appeal and at a later re-evaluation.

“It is clear that these employees receive the correct level of pay for the work they do.

“We have done everything we can to recognise the goodwill shown by mates who are called upon to act up as masters, and indeed pay them accordingly, but we simply cannot make an increased pay award to a single group of staff.

“I very much regret that Unite, who signed up to the Collective Agree­ment, have continued to dis­pute the application of the Single Status Collective Agreement for these 12 mates when it has been applied in the same way to other council staff.”

Unite’s regional organiser, John Taylor, said they had been negoti­ating for nearly two years to try to resolve the situation.

The goodwill from the mates, which allowed the council to run the ferry services, had disappeared, he said.

“They are so short on staff they can’t run a service unless mates act up as skippers. “We have intimated to the council that we would be prepared to go to ACAS, but they would have to bring something new to the table and we would be surp­rised if they could bring something new when they couldn’t bring it for the last two years.”

About Adam Guest

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as a senior news reporter at The Press and Journal, The Barnsley Chronicle and as a freelance reporter for The Doncaster Free Press. Alongside news reporting I specialise in music and sports journalism. Pork pie lover.

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4 comments

  1. Karl Ward

    This is a desperate situation.
    I am neither an outer island resident nor a council employee so hopefully can be as neutral as possible.
    The current crew shortage certainly lands at the feet of the SIC who have obviously paired it beyond the bone.
    I cannot see any winners in this argument, especially the hard working people of the outer isles, who now face the prospect of not being able to get to their jobs on time on Wednesdays and cannot, in truth, guarantee that they will get to their jobs at all, should a Master be required.
    The council has already stated that to exempt these Mates from the Single Status Collective Agreement would be illegal, and the Union who had previously signed up, now seems to want exemptions.
    I certainly know that no local government worker had a pay rise for 3 years and while that indeed may be unfair, it was at least, unfair to all. Not having all the facts to hand, there may well be a heinous injustice which needs to be addressed, but to take it out on their own fellow island residents especially before ACAS has been involved seems a tad mercenary.

    Reply
  2. Kevin T Robertson

    Karl and anyone else including SIC office staff you need to know some of the truth before you criticize what the men are fighting for.

    When single status was first introduce we all did appraisals which i also did for the post of Mate. At the time the grades was decided the Mates was in the higher bracket (the one their fighting to get back in). Which was done through a fair appraisals system know as Single Status (suppose to be fair).

    But all employees had the opportunity to make their feels know on this out come. Sadly for the Mates some senior ferry staff/work colleagues decided that they thought the Mates should not get a pay rise. So they pushed ahead with some very sad reasons and put pressure on the Single Status to re-evaluate the Mates score and in doing so removed the point they required to stay in the upper grade(suppose to be fair)????

    Sadly some of these people later fighted their own corner and moved up a grade thus giving them a pay rise which is stated in the article above as being (but we simply cannot make an increased pay award to a single group of staff). So how and why did this certain group manage to move onto a higher paid bracket. And this was a double kick in the teeth for the Mates.

    So this fair system has not been so fair. There is other groups through out the council who have fighted and won their battles with the shambles of a council and won their fights. Well done to these people. Here is hoping the Mates also win the battle or soon there will be a real shortage of crew when the all start to move on as many have already done.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Kay

    I do not believe all I read !

    Reply
  4. Joseph Kay

    Thanks for the support Kevin, just wish to point out, neither I nor I suppose any of my contemporaries are opposed to any salary increase/back-pay that any of our co-workers have received. It is simply a case that we as Mates have been graded way below the industry standard, no one need have any trouble in establishing this as a fact.

    Reply

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