UK seafarers’ union RMT has written to the Managing Director of Irish Ferries, Andrew Sheen, to demand a meeting to discuss the impact on local seafarer jobs of its plan to introduce a new Dover/Calais service.
Irish Ferries currently operates roll-on roll-off ferry services between Dublin and Holyhead and Rosslare and Pembroke Dock with predominantly eastern European resident crew recruited by Cyprus-based Matrix Ship Management.
Hundreds of seafarers in Dover were made redundant in the middle of the pandemic by P&O Ferries, while Irish Ferries entry into the Cross Channel ferry market has been welcomed by local politicians and port representatives alike.
Recently elected RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch, (pictured) said: “RMT and other ITF-affiliated unions have long held concerns over the impact of Irish Ferries’ business model on local seafarer jobs and skills, trade union rights and maritime safety standards. We regret that, to date, Irish Ferries, a member of the UK Chamber of Shipping and of International Chamber of Shipping, has not engaged with RMT on these important issues.
“A successful recovery in ferry passenger numbers and freight volumes in the summer seems to have driven the Irish Continental Group’s decision to expand their ro-ro ferry operation into the Channel.
“Following the major job losses amongst local seafarers in Dover last summer, the arrival of a new ferry operator should be cause for optimism amongst ratings and officers in Dover and the UK.
“We would be very concerned, however, if Irish Ferries intend to continue using the low-cost crewing model on Dover/Calais services. Whilst this seems likely as the ‘Isle of Inishmore’ is undergoing a re-fit ahead of deployment in the Dover Straits, it would be extremely helpful if we could meet to establish the crewing, safety management and other regulatory details of your company’s proposals for cross channel ferry operations.
“RMT has met with local and national politicians to discuss these plans. It is important, therefore, that the union and our members hear from Irish Ferries on their proposals for this key strategic route on which UK seafarers will continue to work and to be trained for generations to come,” he said.