Strike action could shut down all Southampton to Cowes ferry services, Unite said this week.
In a dispute over poverty pay, around 120 customer service staff, shunters and ratings, who work on Red Funnel’s Southampton to Cowes passenger ferry and car ferry, will be balloted for strike action between June 14 and July 5.
The workers have rejected a pay offer of 4.5 per cent, rising to 6.5 per cent for the lowest paid staff. They are calling for an increase that reflects the real, fast-rising cost of living which Unite says runs at 11.1 per cent.
The majority of the employees at Red Funnel, which operates the lucrative routes, are on the national minimum wage.
Unite says the workers 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.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Red Funnel’s treatment of this workforce is a disgrace. These workers put themselves and their families at risk during the pandemic to keep the ferry services operating so food and essentials could reach the Isle of Wight. This is no way to repay them.
“Red Funnel must respect this workforce and pay fairly or face strike action.
“Unite is determined to win them pay that supports a decent living and, should our members take strike action, their union will be with them every step of the way.”
If the workers vote to strike, the action will shut down all Southampton to Cowes ferry services, which are run exclusively by Red Funnel.
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.
Unite regional officer Ian Woodland added, “A strike will cause severe travel disruption to and from the island. But the fault for that disruption will lay with Red Funnel, who need to recognise that many of their staff are sliding quickly into poverty.
“We urge the company to put forward a pay deal that reflects the soaring cost of living so strikes and the disruption they will cause can be avoided.”
By Ryan Fletcher