Strikes to hit Cowes Week as Isle of Wight ferry workers plan walkout
Red Funnel, which sails from Southampton to the island, said it moved 25,000 bookings after 120 staff voted for industrial action
Thousands of passengers travelling to the Isle of Wight during Cowes Week are facing travel disruption because of strikes.
The ferry provider Red Funnel said it had to move 25,000 bookings after 120 staff working on the Southampton-Cowes route voted for industrial action throughout August.
Cowes Week runs from July 30 to August 6 and is the UK’s oldest sailing regatta. Organisers said the strikes had the potential to cause “massive disruption” for spectators if passenger ferries were cancelled. However, Red Funnel has so far only made limited changes to passenger ferry bookings.
It said it would have to cancel six passenger ferries on August 4 and 10 ferries on August 6. Passengers will be moved onto available ferries on the same day. The bulk of the disruption will be felt on vehicle ferries. Red Funnel will be running an amended timetable throughout August, cancelling 6-8 ferries on strike days.
Strikes are taking place on August 1, 3, 5, 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29.
It comes after negotiations over pay broke down between the operator and 120 employees, who make up 20 per cent of its workforce. Unite, the trade union is demanding a pay increase of 16 per cent for workers, who are predominantly on minimum wage. Red Funnel has made a final offer of between 4.5 per cent and 6.3 per cent.
Sharon Graham, general secretary at Unite, 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.”
Fran Collins, chief executive at Red Funnel, said: “As one of the biggest events on the island calendar, Cowes Week is essential to the Isle of Wight economy, and we are working hard to maintain services during this time. All passengers who’ve booked with us on strike days have been notified of the ferry crossings they are on.
“It is incredibly disappointing that despite our ongoing conversations with Unite, and our desire to reward teams with a fair and reasonable pay increase, our customers continue to be impacted by strike action.”