Isle of Wight ferry strikes latest

Red Funnel ferry summer holiday pay strikes to hit Cowes Week regatta

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Around 120 Red Funnel staff working on the Isle of Wight route, the majority of whom are on the minimum wage, will take 24-hour strike actions on 27 July and 1, 3 and 5 August. The strikes will impact Cowes Week, which runs from 30 July to 6 August. Further summer holiday 24-hour strike actions will take place on 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29 August.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite will not stand for Red Funnel’s disgusting treatment of these workers. Red Funnel’s owners are awash with cash. They can afford to pay and right the wrongs our members are subjected to. Our members are absolutely right to strike to end this injustice. Unite will be supporting them with its full force every step of the way.”

Red Funnel is owned by the £11.5bn West Midlands Pension Fund and the £3.5bn Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario.

Unite says the customer service staff, shunters and ratings are increasingly struggling to pay increased rents. Some are turning to food banks and ‘making the most’ of onboard food allowances at work to keep bills down.

Workers are often away from home for days at time and are only paid the hours they work onboard the ferry, with no overnight subsidies provided for food or other expenses.

The accommodation provided by Red Funnel is located within its Southampton headquarters. There are no cooking facilities except a microwave, the accommodation has long standing problems with ant infestations and sleep is often disturbed by office staff coming into work.

The workers have rejected a pay offer of 4.5 per cent from the company, increasing to 6.5 per cent for the lowest paid staff, far below the real cost of living, currently running at 11.7 per cent and rising.

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland added, “Our members don’t want to strike but Red Funnel has left them with no choice. Red Funnel’s treatment of its workforce is the reason Cowes Week and Isle of Wight summer holiday plans will be disrupted. There is still time to end this dispute before strikes occur, but Red Funnel needs to come back with an offer that meets our members’ aspirations.”

The Red Jet passenger ferry makes a minimum of 21 crossings between Southampton and west Cowes on Monday to Saturday and 15 on Sunday. The car ferry makes at least 19 crossings daily between Southampton and east Cowes.

By Ryan Fletcher

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