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Strikes by Wightlink ferry staff called off

Wightlink staff were due to strike in April
Wightlink staff were due to strike in April

STRIKE action by Wightlink staff has been called off after “progress” in talks between the union and ferry operator.

RMT members were gearing up to begin a walkout next month, but the union has suspended the action after making headway.

As reported in the A&T, Wightlink said it had suffered huge losses during the pandemic and needed to “create a sustainable cost base”.

Proposals included making cost-cutting changes to pensions, introducing more flexible working patterns, and new terms and conditions for future employees.

Industrial action was announced following news Wightlink was to receive a share of a £6.5m government cash injection, which the operator said would not avoid the need to cut costs.

The Treasury said the support package for all three ferry operators on the Isle of Wight, including Red Funnel and Hovertravel, would “safeguard” lifeline services, providing islanders with access to hospitals on the mainland and essential supplies like food and medicine.

But while Wightlink said it would accept all state support and continue running a reduced service, the level of funding was “far smaller” than the operator’s current losses.

The RMT cited an “attack” on pensions and workers’ terms and conditions, with general secretary Mick Cash accusing Wightlink of “exploiting the crisis by trying to force through permanent contractual changes”.

The operator reported a £20m revenue loss at the start of the pandemic. It is currently running a two-hourly car ferry service between Lymington and Yarmouth on weekdays only, but a weekend service will resume from Monday when restrictions on travel are eased.

The latest state support package was the second Wightlink has received. Last Spring £10.5m was given to the company and an operator in the Isles of Scilly.

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