Workers on Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferry services could go on strike after recent pay talks collapsed, a union has warned.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is preparing to ballot staff for industrial action after two previous rounds of pay negotiations with the ferry firm.
An “avoidance of disputes” meeting with managing director Robbie Drummond and other trade unions took place on Friday, after which RMT said the company had failed to accept the offer amounts to a pay cut for ferry crews and other workers.
In a statement, RMT general secretary Mick Cash described the “derisory pay award” as “a serious kick in the teeth” for staff who worked on ferries serving west coast islands during the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “Our negotiators have tried over a series of meetings to get a cost of living award for essential lifeline ferry workers.
“Despite their best efforts again today, the CalMac managing director has given the same response as his management colleagues have issued from the first meeting on October 7.
“It’s become increasingly apparent that Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government are putting pressure on CalMac to hold a line which will see our members financially disadvantaged.
“This is not acceptable to RMT and we will be balloting our members to secure financial fairness for members and their families in these uncertain times.”
Mr Drummond said: “CalMac has suffered significant and unprecedented financial pressures due to Covid-19 and it is likely that these will continue to have an impact for some time.
“Despite this, we are committed to rewarding staff in recognition of their determination to provide a high quality and safe lifeline service during an extremely difficult period.
“We are thankful for the support from Transport Scotland under our contract, which has enabled us to protect every job during the pandemic and to provide furloughed employees 100% of their pay.
“We also took steps to ensure that their safety and wellbeing was well protected.
“This pay offer is the same as the current rate of inflation and is being made with our staff in mind – providing a fair and generous offer in the current circumstances.
“This offer ensures the best possible route for us all going forward as we get through the pandemic together.”
Scottish Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “These are serious accusations from the RMT and ministers have questions to answer over the extent to which the Scottish Government and their transport agency are responsible for the collapse of these talks.
“Our lifeline ferry network has been plagued by cancellations and delays in new ferries. The last thing we need is Government interference blocking a fair deal for ferry workers, leading to industrial action.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “CalMac pay policy sits outside the coverage of the Scottish Government’s pay policy and, as such, this is a matter for CalMac and the unions concerned.
“We would urge management and unions to continue to engage in meaningful dialogue to reach a mutually agreeable outcome that avoids impacting staff and ferry users at an already difficult time for communities served by CalMac.”