Responding to Bob Seeley’s calls for the upcoming Transport Bill to include restrictions on ferry strikes, Unite regional coordinating officer Scott Kemp said, “Mr Seeley knows that Red Funnel is responsible for these strikes because the minimum wage and conditions it offers are atrocious, even though its owners have billions in the bank. It is also the reason why there is a staff retention problem and crossings keep being cancelled.
“His comments will be music to the ears of maritime employers, such as Red Funnel and P&O, who can afford to give workers a decent wage but instead drive down pay and conditions to ever deeper depths.
“Clearly, Mr Sealy has no interest in the difficulties these workers, many of who live on the Isle of Wight, are facing. Unite makes no apologies for fighting to defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”
Red Funnel is owned by the £11.5 billion West Midlands Pension Fund and the £3.5 billion Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario.
Around 120 Red Funnel staff working on the Isle of Wight route, the majority of whom are on the minimum wage, voted by 88 per cent for strike action on an 84.2 per cent turnout.
The workers have rejected a pay offer of 4.5 per cent, rising to 6.5 per cent for the lowest paid staff – taking them to barely above the minimum wage. Meanwhile, the real rate of inflation (RPI) is currently running at 11.7 per cent and rising.
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 food allowances at work to keep bills down.
Workers are often away from home for days at a 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 will take 24-hour strike actions on July 27 and August 1, 3 and 5, 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29.
By Ryan Fletcher