15th October 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Unions voice concern about Serco takeover of vital ferry links

0 comments, , by , in News

Concern is mounting over the future of lifeline ferry services to the mainland, with union leaders demanding urgent talks with preferred bidder Serco as the company prepares to take over from NorthLink.

The calls are being made after last week’s announcement that the international services company would take control over the running of the North Boats for six years in July.

The maritime union Nautilus International, which represents 23,000 maritime workers, aired its fears over the awarding of the £243 million contract.

It wants to discuss pay, conditions and pensions for staff who will transfer from NorthLink to the new operator under TUPE regulations.

General secretary Mark Dickinson said: “Once again, the bidding process for Scotland’s lifeline ferry services has sparked unnecessary alarm and uncertainty.

“We strongly dispute the need to put these essential services out to tender every six years, with all the resulting fears for the future that this generates for staff and public alike.”

The general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, Bob Crow, has described the decision in the national media as a privatisation of ferry services in the name of “greed and profit”.

“This privatisation of key ferry services in the name of greed and profit is a bitter kick in the teeth for both the Scottish people and the ferry staff.”

Councillor Jonathan Wills said he would be opposed to the council or charitable trust investing in Serco because of its involvement in the nuclear industry.  Shetland Islands Council has a long-running policy against nuclear energy, but Serco is excluded from the Norwegian government’s investment portfolio because of an ongoing involvement in nuclear arms.

“From what I know of Serco in Shetland, they have got quite a good record of the way they treat their staff … but there are international concerns about their conduct,” said Dr Wills.

“We have an excellent system, not only when you book but when you check in and on board as well. I would be very sorry to see any changes that spoil their working conditions.”

One thing that will not change is the NorthLink branding, which Serco is set to keep in order to “maintain the positive identity” and avoid the needless expense of rebranding.

The news Serco was being put forward as a favoured candidate came as a shock to many when it went public on Friday – the same day the results from the local council elections were released.  

Although the company has great knowledge of marine harbour operations through its work with the Royal Navy, it currently only operates one short ferry service – the Woolwich Free Ferry.

Serco describes itself on its own website as a service and outsourcing company which has been delivering essential public services for more than 40 years.

More than 100,000 employees deliver mission-critical services to government and private clients in over 30 countries, it claims.

A spokesman for Serco declined to comment on Serco’s involvement in nuclear, only adding the company provided a wide range of public services including education, transport and health.

Tags:

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.

View other stories by »

Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.