A UNION is calling for a protest over Condor Ferries this weekend.
RMT is organising a demonstration at Portsmouth International Port from 8am on Saturday, with the aim of highlighting what the union describes as the company’s ‘exploitative and anti-trade union business model’.
The call for the protest comes in the wake of news that Brittany Ferries and US-owned investment fund Columbia Threadneedle have agreed to buy Condor Ferries in a deal that could be worth up to £300m.
RMT said Condor Ferries’ contract is with the Jersey and Guernsey governments for lifeline ferry services from Portsmouth for freight, and Poole – for passengers – to the Channel Islands.
The union adds that Channel Island businesses, including Tesco, Co-op, Iceland and Waitrose rely upon Condor’s freight services and 95 per cent of everything consumed on the Channel Islands arrives from council-owned Portsmouth port.
RMT will be using the demonstration to demand that the new owners work with UK and French maritime unions and the Channel Island governments to deliver a new contract that increases and improves jobs and services across Condor’s operations.
The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘The Condor protest in Portsmouth is part of RMT’s SOS 2020 campaign which highlights exploitation of workers in the shipping industry.
‘Only 15 per cent of the 80,560 ratings jobs in the UK shipping industry are held by UK seafarers.
‘The vast majority are foreign nationals being exploited by crewing agents currently used by companies like Condor to work on-board for months on end for below the minimum wage.
‘RMT will be calling on Condor’s new owners to make a fresh start with this lifeline service and work with UK and French maritime unions and the Channel Island governments to deliver a new contract that increases and improves jobs and services across Condor’s operations.’
The union claims that Ukrainian seafarers working on the Condor fleet for two-month periods are ‘being paid below the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for a 12-hour working day, 7-day week living on the ship and without trade union or pension rights’.
A spokesman for Condor Ferries said: ‘Condor is a proud and responsible employer and the RMT’s comments made in relation to our treatment of staff are inaccurate.
‘We stand by our many previous comments on the matter – Condor fully adheres to and indeed exceeds domestic and international employment regulations covering the wages, terms and conditions of staff and this includes compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
‘A very small number of non-EU seafarers are employed through a specialist recruitment agency and many return to us year after year, citing the positive work experience.
‘These qualified and experienced seafarers are hard-working, valued members of our team and their welfare is no less important than that of all our UK, EU and international employees.
‘We are a responsible and prudent operator and the assertions made are unfortunately wrong and inappropriate.
‘Condor has provided lifeline services to the Channel Islands for over 70 years so works closely with the authorities in Guernsey and Jersey to provide the best sea connectivity across our freight, Islander and tourism offerings.’