Stornoway Port Authority faces trade union intervention

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Public sector trade union, UNISON, has reportedly stepped-in to defend the rights of Port Operatives employed under annualised-hours contracts by Stornoway Port Authority (SPA).

With the MV Loch Seaforth in Scottish waters and about to undergo sea trials and staff training, the completion of the works in Stornoway harbour will be holding back the vessel’s takeover of the Stornoway - Ullapool route.

Yet with only four weeks to go before Port Operatives will have completed their ‘annualised’ contractual hours, Stornoway Port Authority has yet to confirm how the port will be operated throughout the month of December.

UNISON members have highlighted that, as of the beginning of December, they will have completed their contractual hours for 2014 - and despite a number of requests by their union, SPA management have yet to confirm whether staff will be paid for extra hours worked to cover the normal day-to-day operation of the port.

Ken Matthews, UNISON Regional Organiser, said: “UNISON considers Stornoway port to be

of such vital importance to the Western Isles that our making public the potential for such a gap in staff-cover at the Port to be clearly in the public interest.”

New contracts brought in at the beginning of this year saw the introduction of annualised hours to bring about a degree of flexibility in the operation of the port with pay spread across twelve months of the year.

Management decisions meant that a temporary staff rota was introduced which saw an increase in the weekly hours Port Operatives worked.

Ken Matthews continued: “UNISON has been flagging this situation up since May, as we could see the potential for members to have completed their annual contractual hours well before the end of this year.

“Despite our continual requests we’ve had no clarification from SPA management as to what they propose to do about this situation, and it appears the options are that the Port Authority will either have to ask staff to work additional hours - at additional cost - or staff will be entitled to stay at home until after the New Year.”

UNISON has written to SPA Chief Executive, Jane Maciver, asserting union members’ contractual rights and requesting details of the employer’s proposals. The union has also lodged a collective grievance against SPA management in respect of alleged intimidation over working hours, rotas and lack of appropriate consultation over a new rota.

Ken added: “Although UNISON does not take our members’ grievances or the potential for legal action against any employer lightly - this is however a situation entirely of the employer’s own making, and we will defend our members’ contracts of employment and their right to a safe place of work, free from intimidation”.

UNISON has provided Stornoway Port Authority Board members with a copy of the correspondence and grievance lodged with its Chief Executive, in an attempt to facilitate a positive and early resolution to this situation, for the benefit of UNISON members and the community they serve.