Red Funnel staff to strike over summer holidays

Strike action by staff of Isle of Wight ferry operator Red Funnel has been confirmed for dates during Cowes Week and across the summer holidays.

Around 120 employees working on the Southampton to Cowes ferry route plan to strike on July 27 and August 1, 3 and 5, according to the Unite union.

Further 24-hour strikes are due to take place on August 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham accused the ferry operator of “disgusting treatment” of its staff, and added: “Our members are absolutely right to strike to end this injustice. Unite will be supporting them with its full force every step of the way.”

Unite members represent around 20% of Red Funnel staff.

The dispute over pay could affect passengers travelling to the island during the busy Cowes Week regatta, which runs from July 30 to August 6.

The Red Jet fast passenger service makes a minimum of 21 crossings between Southampton and west Cowes on Mondays to Saturdays and 15 on Sundays. The car ferry makes at least 19 crossings daily between Southampton and east Cowes.

Unite claims the majority of staff at Red Funnel are on the national minimum wage and are struggling with rising costs of rent and food. It says many are having to turn to food banks and spend days away from home with no overnight pay for food and expenses. They are only paid for the hours they work on board the ferry.

Accommodation is provided by Red Funnel for staff at its Southampton headquarters but there are no cooking facilities other than a microwave, according to Unite.

Staff have already rejected a pay offer of 4.5% from the company, increasing to 6.5% for the lowest paid staff.

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: “Our members don’t want to strike but Red Funnel has left them with no choice. Red Funnel’s treatment of its workforce is the reason Cowes Week and Isle of Wight summer holiday plans will be disrupted.

“There is still time to end this dispute before strikes occur, but Red Funnel needs to come back with an offer that meets our members’ aspirations.”

Red Funnel, which is owned by West Midlands Pension Fund and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario, has previously said it has contingency plans it can introduce if a proportion of staff walk out on strike this summer.

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