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Ferries

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I listened to what the minister said, but the reality is that he has just renewed that contract in order to, in effect, continue to have in place a lower standard of workers’ rights for those people if any ferry services are required to be subcontracted. Surely that situation should have been avoided when it came to awarding that particular contract. We should have put in place the capacity to ensure that we did not have to subcontract those services because of growing freight demand on that particular route.

I have asked the minister on more than one occasion to give me a guarantee that all staff, including subcontractors, on the new northern isles ferry services will be covered by a collective bargaining agreement. It seems, from what the minister has said today, that that will not be the case. The Government has been very keen to point out on numerous occasions that the fair work framework applies to those contracts. However, we must be clear that the framework definitely needs strengthened, because we are unable to guarantee collective bargaining for all the workforces, in particular those that are subcontracted. The Government really needs to start to address that issue when it comes to award those contracts.

I have used up my five minutes, so I will finish here. We need action from the Government, not only to improve how ferries are run by bringing lifeline services into public hands but on the way in which investment projects are planned, procured and managed, by creating a long-term strategy for our ferries and the necessary ferry-building plan to support that strategy.