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Nautilus calls for Treasury to intervene in Steam Packet dispute

Union members are to begin industrial action on Wednesday

The union in a dispute with the Steam Packet Company is calling on the government to intervene in the situation.

Nautilus International has written to the Treasury Minister, saying the Government shouldn't allow a company it owns to act with disregard for due process and the lives of employees.

The Steam Packet recently sent letters to its officers saying if they didn't accept new conditions which include living onboard vessels for up to two weeks at a time, they would lose their jobs.

The Company has said its actions have been legal and proportionate.

Union members will begin industrial action short of a strike from 6pm on Wednesday.

The letter from Nautilus International's senior national secretary Garry Elliot to Treasury Minister Dr Alex Allinson is dated 23rd December 2023.

Dear Treasury Minister, 

Firstly, thank you for meeting with us on Friday 15th December, we trust it shed some light on the situation from our member’s perspective.

I write to you in deeply distressing circumstances for our members who have been served notice by Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. 

This is the latest escalation by Steam Packet in the ongoing dispute between Nautilus International, representing the vast majority of permanent officers and Manx Sea Transport the crewing agency for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. 

Steam Packet management have seen fit, at the final hour, three days prior to Christmas, to inform our members that if they do not accept fundamental and unilateral changes to their contracts that have not been agreed through the collective bargaining process, their employment will be terminated at the end of their notice period. 

This is yet further example of Steam Packet’s disrespect for the long-standing collective bargaining agreement and their utter ambivalence towards our members deeply felt concerns. 

While Steam Packet were informing the press that they were open to negotiations, it is now clear they were preparing to terminate the employment of some of their most loyal, dedicated, and long-standing officers. 

The same officers who continued to operate the vessels and secure island supply chains during the pandemic.

There is also real concern that requiring temporary staff to cover will affect harmony onboard and the long-term working environment when a resolution is achieved.

This decision is not only distressing for our members but is already causing significant reputational damage to the company who is becoming synonymous with unscrupulous employment practices such as fire and rehire.

The level of public outrage at this latest unilateral action by the Steam Packet Company has been evident on social media and reflected with our own petition growing by nearly 500 signatures in just a few hours to over 1100 in total.

As we have said previously, we respect that Steam Packet is an ‘arms-length’ body, however as the Treasury is the shareholder and is ultimately accountable to the Manx public, the Isle of Man government surely cannot allow a company they own to act with such disregard for due process and the lives of their employees.

Our action short of strike commencing at 1800 on 27th December 2023 will continue as planned, and we will be considering further proportionate responses to this latest development. 

We remain clear; it is time for government to intervene. 

Yours sincerely, 

Garry Elliott 

Senior national secretary

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