Ferry workers on the Isle of Wight have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. Red Funnel employees have decided to hold the industrial action for 24-hour periods across 12 days on July 27th and August 1st, 3rd, 5th, 9th, 11th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 23rd, 26th and 29th.
Unite members will be taking action over the Cowes Week sailing regatta and start of the school summer holidays in a dispute over pay and conditions. The union says the customer service staff, shunters and ratings are increasingly struggling to pay increased rents due to the rising cost of living. 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: “Unite will not stand for Red Funnel’s disgusting treatment of these workers. Red Funnel’s owners are awash with cash.”
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She added: “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.”
Why are Red Funnel workers striking?
Unite has claimed that workers are often away from home for days at a time and are only paid for the hours that they work onboard the ferry, with no overnight subsidies provided for food or other expenses. The accommodation provided by Red Funnel, found within its Southampton headquarter, has no cooking facilities except a microwave, has long-standing problems with ant infestations and sleep is often disturbed by office staff.
Workers have already rejected a pay offer of 4.5 per cent, 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. 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.
Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: “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.
What has Red Funnel said?
Last week, Red Funnel said: “We are incredibly disappointed to have received notification today from Unite the Union that members voted for strike action.
“Our priority is ensuring the Island remains connected and we continue to provide a lifeline service that so many rely upon. We will contact any impacted customers ahead of their booked crossing and advise of their options. We’d like to assure you that we have prepared robust contingency plans and do not anticipate a full stop to our services, rather, we expect to operate on a revised and reduced timetable.”
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