Travellers face severe disruption today because of a 24-hour walkout by ferry workers, amid fears that a second union could join the strike action.
While further talks are scheduled to take place next week between Caledonian MacBrayne and Rail and Maritime Transport (RMT) union, yesterday it emerged that ticket office staff will be balloted on taking industrial action over a tendering bid by private company Serco.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), which represents 100 ticket office staff and managers at CalMac Ferries, will start a 10-day ballot on July 3.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said: “The Scottish Government is simply not listening to the unions or the general public which wants this service kept in public hands.
“We want long-term guarantees on job security for our members and a recognition that the interests of the local communities will come first, not last.”
The majority of CalMac’s vessel’s will remain in port today, including some of the busiest routes such as the Ullapool to Stornoway ferry and the main link between the mainland and Mull.
Ten of the company’s smaller ferries will sail as normal or to an amended timetable, including the two smaller routes into Mull from Lochaline and Kilchoan.
Further talks are scheduled next to avert
The RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is clear that the CalMac workers, locked into a battle for the very future of these lifeline ferry services, are drawing in broad political and public support as the issues at the heart of the dispute are exposed and the smokescreen of misinformation melts away.”
CalMac managing director Martin Dorchester said: “Although it looks like this action will be limited in scope, it will undoubtedly still hit the communities we serve hard.
“It is not just an inconvenience at the start of the tourist season it will impact island businesses where it hurts most, in their pockets.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it was “extremely disappointing” that the strike was going ahead.
He said: “More talks are scheduled in London next week, however that will be of little consolation to those communities who are facing disruption tomorrow, albeit CalMac have done a commendable job in putting on enough services to carry around 40% of normal passenger capacity.”
Over a third of ferries to continue
More then a third of CalMac services will take to the seas today despite the strike.
The operator say that 10 out of its 27 routes will sail as normal or to an amended timetable.
Routes served by the company’s smaller vessels will be in operation, while the larger boats are tied up in port.
CalMac say they will still be able to carry around 40% of its normal passenger capacity during the strike action.
Services which will sail include: Tobermory-Kilchoan, Fionnphort-Iona, Oban-Lismore, Lochaline-Fishnish, Tayinloan-Gigha and Raasay-Sconser.
Some Clyde services including Largs-Cumbrae, Wemyss Bay-Rothesay, Lochranza-Cloanaig and Colintraive-Rhubodach will also sail.
CalMac managing director Martin Dorchester said: “We will continue to work to mitigate as much as possible any disruption for the travelling public and I would like to apologise for any inconvenience and thank passengers for their patience during this time.”