Over 400 workers at Wightlink are being balloted as to whether or not to carry out strike action as a result of the company proposing to slash workers’ pension rights and change their working conditions.
Negotiations have failed to produce an offer on pensions and terms and conditions that meet ‘the very reasonable demands of the workforce’, according to the RMT.
The ballot of all grades – from seafarers to ticket office staff at Wightlink (Guernsey) and Wightlink Ltd – is over the company’s refusal to withdraw their proposal to close the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme to existing members and refusal to withdraw their proposal to reintroduce the flexible working practices which all employees were subject to in the first 6 months of the pandemic.
According to the union, Wightlink’s action had been ‘particularly disgraceful’ due to the fact that at the height of the pandemic (April to September) employees loaned 20% of their salary and gave up terms and conditions for 6 months to allow the company to keep trading. The company have chosen to repay the generosity of their employees by slashing their pension rights and changing their working conditions.
Meanwhile, Wightlink continues to pay out millions of pounds in dividends to its various private equity owners, extracting funds from the company that should be used to support a workforce that has shown loyalty to the firm in these unprecedented times.
The ballot opened on 14th December and the campaign for a massive ‘yes’ vote is well underway.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, has said:
“Our members at Wightlink are angry and frustrated that the company are slashing their pensions and terms and conditions on this lifeline service in what is real kick in the teeth for loyal and hard-working staff.
“It is a particularly bitter blow in light of the fact Wightlink that employees loaned 20% of their salary and gave up terms and conditions for 6 months to allow the company to keep trading at the height of the pandemic.
“Disgracefully, Wightlink has managed to find the funds to pay huge dividends to the various private equity owners that have been feeding off our members’ work for the last five years.
“The ballot has opened and we are campaigning hard for a massive YES vote.
“RMT is looking for the company to the decent thing in the season of goodwill and make a responsible offer to settle this dispute. The union remains available for talks.”
According to accounts from Companies House, the highest paid director at Wightlink earned £348,000 in 2018-19 which is over 15x what a Sales and Reservations Officers at Wightlink earns today (£22,808 per annum).
— to www.islandecho.co.uk