Home » News/Views » Red Funnel workers in dispute

Red Funnel workers in dispute

15 August 2022

MV Red Eagle, one of the Red Funnel ferries affected by the dispute. Photo Fluteflute via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Ferry workers on the Red Funnel crossings from Southampton to Cowes on the Isle of Wight continue a fight for pay with strikes throughout August.

In July, 120 Red Funnel workers voted heavily for strikes in support of a 16 per cent pay claim.


The employer offered a 4.5 per cent increase, with 6.5 per cent for the lowest paid. The strength of feeling was evident in the ballot result – 88 per cent for strike action, with a turnout of 84 per cent. Unite said that some of its members rely on food banks to make ends meet.

The Red Funnel workers, members of Unite, are concerned about the rising cost of living, but also have long standing concerns about their conditions. And pay on Wightlink ferries, operating from Portsmouth and Lymington, is significantly better.

Poor retention

Workers have to spend days away from home, yet Red Funnel does not pay stopover hours or overnight expenses. Staff retention is poor; in July alone Unite reported cancellation of services on eight days.

In addition to the six strike days already, which affected the Cowes Week regatta, a further six strikes will take place on 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29 August.

“The company doesn’t invest in ships and don’t pay the rate for the job.”

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: “Red Funnel have the boats and they have routes on one of the most expensive stretches of water in the world. But their operations are crumbling because the company doesn’t invest in its ships and they don’t pay the rate for the job.

“It’s not normal work, there’s long shifts, time spent away from home and all staff are responsible for passenger safety in the event of an emergency. Wightlink recognises this, which is why their operations are not in such a shambles.”

Red Funnel is owned by the £11.5 billion West Midlands Pension Fund and the £3.5 billion Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario. Red Funnel CEO Fran Collins said “We are sympathetic to the current cost of living challenges but reiterate that they did not play a part in our pay talks.” Which really misses the point.