Customer services advisers and catering assistants on Wightlink, which runs services between the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, earn £13.42 an hour. The hourly pay for the equivalent roles on Red Funnel is just £9.50, a difference of £3.92. Wightlink cleaners earn £10.99 per hour, while Red Funnel cleaners are on £9.50.

Regardless of their role, Red Funnel staff must undergo sea training and are responsible for passenger safety. Workers are often away from home for days at time and are only paid the hours they work onboard the ferry, with no overnight subsidies provided for food or other expenses.

Horrendous pay

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: Pay and out of pocket expenses are so bad at Red Funnel that staff are using food banks to survive. Its horrendous, especially when workers doing the same jobs on the same stretch of water are earning nearly £4 an hour more. 

 There is no justification for Red Funnel and its owners, who have billions in the bank, to pay such disgraceful wages. Unite will fight them every step of the away until there is a decent pay offer.”  

Wealthy owners

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. 

The overnight accommodation provided by Red Funnel for workers is located within its Southampton headquarters. There are no cooking facilities except a microwave, the accommodation has long standing problems with ant infestations and sleep is often disturbed by office staff coming into work. 

Pay and conditions are so bad at Red Funnel that the company has a major staff retention problem that causes services to be regularly cancelled. This month alone, services have been cancelled on 1, 7, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 19 July. 

Lack of investment

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 dont pay the rate for the job. Its not normal work, theres 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.” 

 Around 120 Red Funnel staff working on the Southampton-Cowes route, the majority of whom are on the minimum wage, will begin a 24-hour strike action tomorrow (27 July), with further strikes on 1, 3, 5 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29 August.

Cowes week

The strikes will impact Cowes Week, which runs from 30 July to 6 August, as well as the summer holidays. 


Notes to editors

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.