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'Devastated' Stena Line staff accept pay cut of up to 24% for new workers

By John Mulgrew

Published 10/12/2015

Stena blamed loss-making Irish Sea for the changes
Stena blamed loss-making Irish Sea for the changes

Stena Line workers have been left "devastated" after voting to accept drastic pay cuts for new staff and dozens of temporary workers, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Members of staff on zero-hours contracts will bear the brunt of the changes as hourly pay plummets from £8.41 to £7.60 - a decline of almost 9%.

That could affect dozens of Stena workers based in Northern Ireland and others across the UK as a whole. Some of the staff caught up in the cutbacks are said to be "devastated".

New permanent roles starting in January 2016 are being hit with pay cuts of up to 24%.

However, permanent workers who already have contracts will see a "year two pay award of 1.75% for January 2016".

The initial proposals to introduce the changes were revealed by the Belfast Telegraph just last month.

Workers voted on the cuts earlier this week, which were put forward by the national RMT union after discussions with the ferry operator.

Some 58% of workers voted to accept the plans, which have been accepted by the firm.

An email sent to RMT members, which has been seen by this newspaper, read: "I can advise you that 58% of members voted to accept the company's proposals, and 42% of members voted to reject the company's proposals.

"I would like to personally thank all members who participated in the referendum.

"This matter has been considered by the union's executive committee, who have noted the result and instructed me to inform Stena of our acceptance of their proposals."

Stena Line operates two "super-fast" ferries from Belfast to Cairnryan in Scotland, as well as two others sailing to Liverpool.

A letter sent to RMT members last month said that as part of Stena's strategic achievement plan, the ferry company was aiming to implement cutbacks of around £120m.

One worker told the Belfast Telegraph last month that temporary staff were "getting a raw deal" and said he would lose around £1,300 a year because of the changes.

He is one of dozens of employees who have no fixed hours, shifts, a contract or sick pay.

He said that when he returns to work next year, he will begin on the lower wage, something that will have a "significant impact" on his standard of living.

As for workers starting full-time contracts next year, a typical new wage earned by a bosun - a senior member of the crew - will fall by 18%, from £35,480 to £29,000, according to the proposals accepted by the union.

In response to the pay cuts, a spokeswoman for Stena Line said that as a result of "many years of unsustainable financial losses", it was having to "reduce the operating cost of loss-making Irish Sea vessels".

"As a result, following considerable discussions with trade unions and employee representatives, we have secured the pay and terms and conditions for all of our permanent seafaring staff, but have had to make changes in regard to the future employment of new entrant seafarers on board our vessels, whether permanent or temporary workers," she added.

The company also indicated while "all temporary contracts of employment were honoured fully for their duration at the agreed pay rates", it has "unfortunately been necessary for us to reduce the rate of pay on offer for future new employees if we're to remain competitive".

"Stena Line remains committed to employing a local workforce, and these changes will allow us to continue that commitment at a time when many of our competitors are using low-paid EU and non-EU staff to reduce costs," it added.

Stena, owned by the Olsson family, is the largest ferry firm in Europe.

9%

How much pay of people on zero-hours contracts will fall

58%

Percentage of staff who supported cutbacks

Belfast Telegraph

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