Belfast Telegraph

Stena Line staff face pay cuts as company tries to save £120m: Eighty zero-hour workers could have their wages slashed by 9%

Exclusive by John Mulgrew

Ferry giant Stena Line looks set to introduce drastic pay cuts for new staff and dozens of its current temporary workers, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

And it's those on 'zero-hour' contracts which are set to feel the brunt of the cuts, with hourly pay to plummet from £8.41 to £7.67 - dropping by almost 9%.

That could affect around 80 ship workers here, and others across the UK as a whole. And some new permanent roles, starting in January 2016, are being hit with cuts of up to 24%.

The details have been revealed in a pay cut proposal from the national RMT union, seen by the Belfast Telegraph.

But permanent workers already with contracts will see a 'year two pay award of 1.75% for January 2016'. A letter sent to RMT members says that as part of Stena's 'strategic achievement plan', it's aiming to make cuts of £120m.

Stena Line told the Belfast Telegraph that as a result of cost cutting, it was reducing the "rate of pay on offer for future new employees if we're to remain competitive".

The union said it maintained "members should not be the brunt of the company's cost cutting agenda".

But "despite the company's best efforts" and following "lengthy discussions" it has outlined the current proposals.

In another case, 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 new proposed cuts.

One worker told the Belfast Telegraph temporary staff were "getting a raw deal" and said he will lose around £1,300 a year as a result of the cuts.

"We are being treated with a lack of respect," he said.

The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, is one of dozens of workers who have no fixed hours, shifts, contracts or sick pay.

He said when he returns to work next year, he'll begin on the lower wage.

That's something he says will have a "significant impact" on his standard of living.

Members of the RMT union have now been balloted on whether to accept the cuts, with results expected at the start of next month.

Stena Line currently has two 'Superfast' ferries which operate from Belfast to Cairnryan in Scotland, as well as two others, which sail to Liverpool.

In response, a spokeswoman for Stena Line said as the 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," the firm said.

The company said 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."

The company said it will "make every effort to try to offer protection to current employees".

The largest ferry operator in Europe, Stena Line is still owned by the Swedish Olsson family, who founded the company in 1962.

Belfast Telegraph