Ferry terminal security jobs saved following emergency talks

Security staff working to keep NorthLink ferry passengers safe at Lerwick terminal are reported to be keeping their jobs – despite a contract termination.

Maritime Protection Solutions’ (MPS) eight members of Shetland-based staff received their notice of possible redundancy last Friday after Serco announced it would be taking the security services in-house.

The Aberdeen-based company has been providing security duties for the Northern Isles ferry service and visiting cruise ships since 2003.

However its contract with Serco is set to be terminated from 30th June – when the next six-year phase of the Northern Isles ferry services begins.

Serco was awarded the £450 million contract to run the service last month.

MPS staff had feared the contract termination would also mean the loss of their jobs.

But following talks between MPS and Serco on Tuesday, it has been announced MPS’s staff will be retained by Serco.

Serco confirmed it would be following Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations, which are aimed at protecting jobs from being lost in a takeover.

Prior to the talks, staff had feared the worst after MPS’s managing director Stuart McCulloch wrote warning about possible redundancies on Friday.

Mr McCulloch said in his email that while he hoped redundancies could be avoided or reduced there was still a risk of job losses.

He added on Saturday that he imagined morale would be “pretty low after the devastating news of potential redundancy” and he wanted to “reassure our staff that we appreciate their efforts at this time”.

One MPS staff member told this newspaper on Monday they feared all eight staff would lose their jobs – and may struggle to find alternative employment given the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“They labelled us key workers and now we’re being made redundant,” they said.

But following Tuesday’s talks, the staff member added that while they had yet to receive confirmation from either MPS or Serco, they thought colleagues would be “happy keeping our jobs and hopefully the same hours”.

The security staff roles include marshalling passenger vehicles on and off the ferries, preventing unauthorised access to the terminal site and keeping people away from dangerous loading areas.

Most of the MPS workers are reported to have had at least five years’ experience in the role – and had pointed out how important their work was in preserving the safety of passengers and NorthLink staff.

They had raised concerns that safety could be compromised if their roles were taken on by staff with less experience.

Following Tuesday’s talks MPS said it would continue to work closely with Serco during the transition period.

However, as 95 per cent of MPS’s business is derived through Serco, with the remaining five per cent coming from visiting cruise ships, which have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company is still warning of redundancies elsewhere in the workforce.

Stuart McCulloch, managing director of MPS said: “The provision of professional third-party security services to any ferry service is crucially important and MPS has achieved the highest possible standards of protection for passengers, crew and the many and varied assets employed.

“The MPS team have been motivated and diligent throughout and I take this opportunity of praising them all for their commitment and loyalty since 2003.”

Captain John Strathearn, Serco’s operations director at NorthLink Ferries, said: “We have notified our third party supplier of the termination of contract of services, which is being brought in house, and in line with TUPE regulations are following the required procedures and dialogue with the supplier.”


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