PENSION cuts are among the changes Wightlink employees face as the ferry company battles to save jobs amid a £20m revenue loss from the pandemic.
A 60-day consultation was launched on Wednesday to gauge the workforce’s views on plans as the second national lockdown and falling passenger numbers forced the slashing of Lymington-to-Yarmouth sailings.
The operator maintained it must become a more sustainable business to cope with future financial risks and protect services and jobs.
Having suffered the £20m loss at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Wightlink is not expecting passenger levels to return to normal in the foreseeable future. This has been exacerbated by the new month-long lockdown which includes a ban on non-essential travel.
The company has proposed making cost-cutting changes to pensions, more flexibility in working patterns and new terms and conditions for future employees.
If the proposals are accepted, Wightlink has promised there will be no compulsory job losses.
Chief executive Keith Greenfield said: “It is my duty to ensure that Wightlink survives this crisis, however long it lasts.
“We must manage our current costs and future financial risks to protect jobs and our lifeline connections for Islanders.
“The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the travel sector and wider industry. There have been widespread job losses, changes to terms and conditions and long-term pay reductions. We do not want to see this happen at Wightlink.”
He added: “If we can reach agreement with our colleagues and trade unions to combat these financial challenges, we can avoid compulsory redundancies and protect Wightlink’s services for the future.”
The details include ending accruals in the legacy defined benefit pension, with existing benefits protected, and doubling company minimum contributions to the defined contribution pension to which a majority of employees belong.
Normal Lymington-to-Yarmouth car ferry crossings ended today, with the service set to run on a two-hourly basis on weekdays only from Monday. The first will depart at 7.30am from Yarmouth.
Ferries on the route are designed to carry up to 65 cars, Wightlink said, but most of last weekend’s sailings carried fewer than 10 and, in some cases, none at all.
Apologising for the disruption, Mr Greenfield said: “We will continue to monitor demand with a view to restoring services as soon as they become sustainable.”