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Ferries - Red Funnel pay fight

MV Red Eagle, one of the Red Funnel ferries affected by the dispute. Photo Fluteflute via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Ferry workers on the Red Funnel crossings from Southampton to Cowes on the Isle of Wight continued their pay fight with strikes throughout August. In July, 120 Red Funnel workers voted heavily for strikes in support of a 16 per cent pay claim. The employer offered a 4.5 per cent increase, with 6.5 per cent for the lowest paid. 

The strength of feeling was evident in the ballot result – 88 per cent for strike action, with a turnout of 84 per cent. Unite said that some of its members rely on food banks to make ends meet.

The Red Funnel workers are concerned about the rising cost of living, but also have long standing concerns about their working conditions. And pay on Wightlink ferries, operating from Portsmouth and Lymington, is significantly better. Workers have to spend days away from home, yet Red Funnel does not pay stopover hours or expenses. Staff retention is poor. In July alone Unite reported cancellation of services on eight days.

In addition to the six strike days in July, which affected the Cowes Week regatta, a further six strikes took place on 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29 August. 

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: “Red Funnel have the boats and they have routes on one of the most expensive stretches of water in the world. But their operations are crumbling because the company doesn’t invest in its ships and they don’t pay the rate for the job.”

• More background on this story is available on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk.