With the backing of the RMT union, workers at Condor Ferries are struggling against exploitative conditions and demanding fair pay. The rest of the labour movement should offer support and solidarity.
On the morning of Saturday 12th January, I attended an RMT demo at Portsmouth International Port in support of the ongoing campaign against Condor Ferries. This company is contracted by the Jersey & Guernsey governments to operate lifeline ferry services between Portsmouth and Poole and the Channel Islands.
Currently, Ukrainian seafarers employed on two-month contracts with Condor Ferries are paid below the national minimum wage, working for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. They live on the ship, and have no pension entitlement.
These seafaring workers should not have to compete with wage rates and hours that are outlawed for those back on dry land.
Condor Ferries’ majority shareholder is the Australian investment bank Macquarie. Those at the top of this bank have raked in profits from assets like Condor, including a 2017 dividend of £57m.
Passengers going in and out of the terminal building during the demo gladly took RMT flyers. They could be seen reading these while awaiting their transport or sitting on coaches in the adjacent coach and bus stops.
The RMT flyer rightly called for a living wage of £9.75 per hour on these services, as well as demanding collective recognition for RMT members in all services run under the Red Ensign Group. The union also want binding targets for seafarer apprentices over the life of a new contract.
The Portsmouth International Port is owned by Portsmouth City Council. As a Labour Party member, this highlights the need for us to get a majority Labour council in place locally this coming May. We need to defend and protect all workers under the control of the local council, working in facilities that they own.
Nationally, we need to put Clause 4 back into the Labour Party constitution and fight for a socialist Labour Party in a general election – not just because of the Brexit chaos, but because of the scandals of working life experienced by so many in 21st century Britain, such as the Condor Ferries workers.