Ferry operator fails to win over anti-outsourcing protestors

An increasingly bitter industrial dispute involving Irish Ferries has deepened despite the withdrawal of security staff from two ships in Wales.

Irish Ferries staff have been protesting against the company’s plans to replace 543 Irish staff with cheaper foreign agency labour as part of a redundancy scheme.

The company claims this outsourcing, first announced in September, is necessary to help it cut costs and remain competitive.

But Irish employees, led by the Siptu union, have fiercely criticised the move, and have refused to sail the Isle of Inishmore ferry in Pembroke and the Ulysses ferry in Holyhead since 24 November in protest.

The company hoped its decision to withdraw the security staff – who accompanied eastern European workers onto the vessels last week as protection – would result in “reciprocal goodwill” from the workers, but they are still refusing to sail the vessels.

Eamonn Rothwell, chief executive of Irish Ferries, defended the use of security personnel. He said they were brought on board to protect travellers and Irish staff who were familiarising the new foreign employees with the ship, from intimidation.

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