One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
RMT Calls Of Strike Action At Calmac
Further strikes on Scotland's west coast ferry services have been averted after a settlement was reached during talks.
The RMT union said it has called off industrial action on both CalMac and Argyll Ferries after receiving clear assurances on jobs, terms and conditions and pensions.
Two-thirds of west coast ferry services were suspended in June as ferry staff sought reassurances over the future of the Clyde and Hebrides operations.
A further day of strike action planned for earlier this month was called off to allow for talks over a tendering process that could see routes change hands from publicly-owned CalMac to private firm Serco.
An agreement was reached following a fourth day of talks between the Scottish Government, CalMac Ferries Limited and union representatives.
In a joint statement the RMT and TSSA, whose members had also voted for strike action, said: "RMT and TSSA believe we have reached the best possible deal achievable, for our members which will protect the current terms and conditions.
"In doing so we have also received the written assurances from the transport minister, that there will be a requirement by any successful bidder to provide the current Cal Mac pension scheme.
"The resolution of this dispute secures the future employment of our members and indeed the services they provide to the island communities.''
CalMac's contract to run the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services comes to an end next year and the Scottish Government is putting the contract out to tender, in compliance with European Union (EU) law.
The tendering process for the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) contract will proceed, with the Initial Invitation To Tender set to be issued on the July 31.
Speaking after chairing the talks, Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay said: "All parties involved in the talks have worked hard to find a solution and I am very pleased an agreement has now been reached that ends the threat of further strike action.
"Nowhere will this news be welcomed more than in our islands and we must now return our focus on delivering these vital ferry services for the communities that depend on them.
"The agreement also means that the tendering process for the next CHFS contract will continue, with the Initial Invitation To Tender set to issue on 31st July.
"The Scottish Government has made a clear commitment to our ferry services, investing a record £1billion in port infrastructure, vessels and services since 2007. We have also introduced Road Equivalent Tariff, substantially reducing the cost of ferry travel for passengers, cars, coaches and small commercial vehicles on the CHFS network.
"As minister for transport and islands, I'm well aware of the lifeline role these services play in supporting our islands and the Scottish Government remains committed to delivering the very best deal for all of the communities of the Clyde and Hebrides.''
Martin Dorchester, managing director of CalMac Ferries, said: "We can confirm that we have been able to conclude talks with the RMT and the TSSA and that their concerns have been addressed. Further strike action was in no one's interests.
"I'd like to recognise the positive engagement and support of all our unions in achieving this position.
"Now is the time for everyone at CalMac to start focusing 100% on successfully winning the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract. This is the best way of not only ensuring long term protection for our employees but also of securing the quality lifeline services we provide to the communities we serve.
"We are the best company to deliver these services and I look forward to working with all our colleagues to achieve this goal.''
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