Strike action set for early new year after private sector operator refuses to provide pay increase to ferry workers
Ferry workers vote for strike action with a 85 percent majority after three years of a pay freeze
Unite the union has called on the Department for Infrastructure to intervene to avoid a strike action which will stop the ferry service between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island four days a week.
The strike follows a ballot of ferry workers which returned a 85 percent mandate in pursuit a cost of living pay increase. Despite this ballot, the owner of the outsourced ferry service has refused to move on the workers’ pay claim – which comes after three years of a pay freeze.
With the latest twelve month retail price inflation standing at 14.0%, another year’s pay freeze would amount to a real-terms pay cut of more than a one-seventh of their wage.
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham expressed her support for the workers:
“The Rathlin Island Ferry employers need to have a rethink. Here we have a set of workers who have served the company loyally for years. Now they are on the very eve of taking strike action. Why? Because they haven’t had a pay rise for three years.
“They’re caught in a vice between their employers and the cost of living crisis. Make no mistake Unite will support our members for as long as it takes. So it’s time for Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd to put a decent offer on the table.”
Regional officer for the workforce, Brenda Stevenson, called on the Department to intervene.
“The Rathlin Island Ferry workers perform a vital role in sustaining a community and the economy of Northern Ireland’s largest offshore island. It is scandalous that they have not received any increase to their pay since 2019.
“The approach taken by ferry operator Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd is deeply irresponsible – both to their workers and to the community of Rathlin Island. Their refusal to offer any pay increase has left our members with no alternative but to take strike action. Given the huge impact this will have on the community on Rathlin, we are urging the Department for Infrastructure to intervene: they must take this ferry service back into public hands and provide a pay increase to the ferry workers to avoid the prospect of strike action.
“Our members need to see a genuine cost of living pay increase; they can accept nothing less.”
Planned industrial action by ferry workers will occur four days a week to allow essential supply and provisioning and for school children to attend school on the mainland. Pickets will be going up on Rathlin Island ferry quay from January 3rd 2023.