A SERIES of strike dates between April and June have been planned for Wightlink staff ­— over proposed changes to their pension and flexible working practices.

Among the dates listed are Easter weekend and the Isle of Wight Festival weekend.

At the beginning of December last year, the RMT union demanded Wightlink withdraw its proposal to reintroduce the flexible working practices which all employees were subject to in the first six months of the pandemic.

It also asked the cross-Solent ferry company to withdraw its proposal to close the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme to existing members.

The RMT union said it was clear Wightlink had offered no commitment to withdraw either proposal. It held a ballot earlier in the month, where members voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking action.

RMT said Wightlink staff had bent over backwards to help the cross-Solent ferry company survive during the Covid-19 pandemic, only to be treated as cannon fodder.

Wightlink said the proposals would avoid compulsory redundancies or pay cuts.

RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said: "Further to my letter dated January 4, 2021, it is apparent Wightlink management has chosen not to listen to the overwhelming ballot mandate opposing their proposals and are not listening to our Representatives' demands by failing to hold meaningful consultation.

"At a meeting held on January 5, 2021, once again Wightlink refused to withdraw their proposal to close the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme to existing members and withdraw their proposal to reintroduce the flexible working practices which all employees were subject to in the first six months of the pandemic.

"It is clear from our representatives that at the meeting, Wightlink was in no position to agree anything, and as such it proved to be a complete waste of time.

“This union will not tolerate the contempt towards our members, the processes and legislation set up for good industrial relations.

"As a result of the company’s failure to recognise the ballot mandate and their failure to enter into meaningful discussions to resolve this dispute, the union’s National Executive Committee has instructed that the following strike action takes place."

Wightlink staff have been told not to book on to work on the following dates:

  • Friday, April 2 (Good Friday) to (and including) Monday, April 5 (Easter Monday)
  • Friday, May 28 (Bank holiday weekend)
  • Monday, May 31 (Bank holiday)
  • Friday, June 4 to (and including) Sunday, June 6
  • Friday, June 11 to (and including) Sunday, June 13
  • Friday, June 18 to (and including) Sunday, June 20 (Isle of Wight Festival weekend)
  • Friday, June 25 to (and including) Sunday, June 27.

A spokesperson for Wightlink said: “Wightlink is consulting with its employees on how to protect jobs and ensure it survives the serious financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Very few people are now travelling and passenger numbers are unlikely to return to normal in the near future. Other companies in the transport sector have already announced redundancies and pay cuts as a response to the severe financial situation in 2020, which is continuing.

"Our proposal covers changes to pensions, including a doubling of company pension contributions for the majority of colleagues, and flexible working to help Wightlink become a more sustainable business.

"This proposal avoids compulsory redundancies or pay cuts.

"We are disappointed the RMT has announced strike dates later in the year while formal consultations are still underway.

"We are confident we will be able to reach agreement with the union on these issues in the coming weeks.