UK workers’ union lobbies for permanent public ownership of Scottish ferry operator

Photo: Caledonian MacBrayne

The UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has called on the Scottish government to commit to keeping ferry operating company Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) in permanent public ownership when the current contract for ferry services ends in September 2024.

The Scottish Ferries union made the demand after it was revealed the deadline for re-tendering the contract had now passed.

The RMT said it takes at least 18 months to draw up specifications in the contract and to launch a tendering process for ferry services along Scotland’s Clyde and Hebrides routes.

The union said this also means that, “at the very least,” the Scottish government will now have to make a temporary extension by direct award to the existing contract operated by CalMac.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch is set to meet with MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, June 13. The meeting will discuss a report written by Professor Jeanette Findlay from the University of Glasgow on the “Financing and delivery of lifeline ferry services in Scotland.”

Professor Findlay’s report recommends the re-integration of CalMac and vessel owner Caledonian Maritime Assets (CMAL) should be strongly considered, and that the wider social and economic value of a publicly owned ferry operator “must be at the heart of considering the future of the service,” the RMT added.

Mr Lynch said that the Scottish government must work with stakeholders to stave off a “full-blown ferry crisis” in lifeline communities and that there is no legal requirement for the government to be compelled to re-tender the ferry contract.

RMT parliamentary group convenor Richard Leonard MSP meanwhile remarked that the “debacle” over the procurement of CalMac’s replacement ferries only proves the necessity of listening more to the ferry workers.

Mr Leonard added that the Scottish government could have avoided the replacement ferries being five years late and three and a half times over budget if it had listened to CalMac’s workers “instead of hiring ex-rear admirals, turnaround directors, and endless consultants.”

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