Talks held over Stena job fears

A cross-party group of local politicians have met senior managers of Stena Line to raise their fears over job losses at Cairnryan ferry port.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Alex Fergusson and Councillor Jim McClung met Paul Grant, route director of Stena Line, last Friday (June 14) to discuss the potential impact of the company s planned 200 job loses across Europe on the local Wigtownshire port. The company has already informed unions that four posts in business control, two posts from onboard services and an administrative post were all being axed at Cairnryan. In addition, the senior post of port manager will disappear, with a Belfast-based manager overseeing both the Belfast and Loch Ryan ports, raising fears that the Loch Ryan facility is being downgraded to be a subsidiary of Belfast.

Mr Brown said: We met with Stena not only to discuss the job losses that have already occurred but our fears that there may be more to come as part of the company s apparent plans to reduce the workforce across Europe by 200. We expressed our concerns that the company s perceived drive towards becoming the ferry equivalent of a low-cost airline will mean changes such as automated check-in, that inevitably will mean fewer staff. We also highlighted our fear that the decision not to replace the local port manager has raised concerns among unions that Cairnryan is on the road to becoming a subsidiary of the Belfast port, with all the major decisions and key staff posts being centralised in Belfast.

There is also genuine anxiety about the potential to see the introduction of foreign seafarers which has proved, with other companies, to lead to a reduction in terms and conditions of the staff and it is not a direction of travel that we would wish to see being pursued by Stena. It was made clear to the route director and his colleagues that local people value the quality jobs that the company provides in the area and, while it is recognised that the company is having to find efficiency savings at this difficult financial time, the current economic situation means local people will find it very difficult to get alternative work if they lose their job. When you have an economy as fragile as Wigtownshire, then even the smallest number of job losses can have a massive impact.

The company recently moved out of Stranraer, which had a big impact on the town, and there remains an element of bad feeling locally as a result of that move. I think it is important for the company to show that it still has a strong commitment to the local community when it comes to deciding any possible employment changes. Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson added: One of the features of Stena has always been its strong commitment to the South West of Scotland through its operational and employment practices.

While I can appreciate any company having to ensure maximum efficiency in these very hard competitive times, it will be a hard pill to swallow for the local economy if the company changes to foreign crewing, and I heard nothing during our talks to suggest that it will not seriously look at that possibility through time.

At the end of the day Stena is a private company which needs to make a profit it would be tragic if that profit came at the expense of the very good relationship with local communities that has been built up over the years.

However, I am sure that the two are not incompatible and that Stena appreciates what is at stake here.

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