Shipping unions are working together to oppose what they describe as a ‘renewed threat to Isle of Man ferry services’.
RMT today (Monday) said it would work alongside the Nautilus union to fight Ellan Vannin Line’s plans for a rival service to the Steam Packet.
RMT has backed the call for the UK and Manx governments to bring in new controls to prevent what they described as ‘unfair competition’ based on low-cost foreign crews and flag of convenience ships.
The unions says flag of convenience ships ‘threaten to undermine services, jobs and working conditions on the lifeline Steam Packet operation’.
The Ellan Vannin Line, owned by Sea Alliance Ltd, has unveiled plans that it claims will ‘bring down prices and improve customer service’ when it launches a freight service and a passenger service by April 2014.
The unions claim that more than 300 jobs on the Steam Packet are threatened by the plans.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: ‘No one should underestimate the scale of the latest threat to services, jobs and working conditions that is posed by this latest aggressive attempt to undermine the Isle of Man Steam Packet.
‘This is not the first time scavengers have attempted to exploit this life-line ferry route and they will be met with the stiffest possible joint resistance from the trade unions and the local community where the decent jobs and conditions on the Steam Packet are an integral part of the local economy.’
Steve Todd, RMT national secretary, said: ‘Once again the vultures are hovering over the Isle of Man Steam Packet and once again we are mobilising to fight them off.
‘This is an action replay of the failed Mezeron operation which relied on flagged-out ships and an exploited, overseas workforce to try and take out the Steam Packet and the highly-valued service it provides to the island community.
‘The political, public and industrial fight starts now.’
Many people question whether the island’s market is big enough to sustain two rival ferry companies. In 2010/11 the Steam Packet was targeted by Mezeron, but the service soon ended.
However, arguably passengers suffered long term because one of the measures the Steam Packet took to beat its new rival was to streamline and to offload one fast craft, the Snaefell. It has never been replaced.
In the late seventies and early eighties, the Steam Packet faced sustained competition from Manx Line (later part of Sealink).
It took place when there were significantly more tourists using ferries than today but the saga left both companies reeling.
They eventually had to merge their operations.
More on this story in Thursday’s Manx Independent.