Billionaire owners hold down pay while workers turn to food banks 

All Southampton-to-Cowes ferries will shut down during summer holiday as workers challenge Red Funnel’s billionaire owners to get rid of poverty pay, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today (Tuesday 5 July). 

Around 120 Red Funnel staff working on the Isle of Wight route, the majority of whom are on the minimum wage, voted by 88 per cent for strike action in a ballot with an 84.2 per cent turnout.

The workers have rejected a pay offer of 4.5 per cent, rising to 6.5 per cent for the lowest paid staff, far below the real cost of living, currently running at 11.7 per cent and rising. 

Unite says the customer service staff, shunters and ratings are increasingly struggling to pay increased rents. Some are turning to food banks and ‘making the mostof food allowances at work to keep bills down.  

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. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: Red Funnel is another employer that can afford to pay a decent wage but is refusing to do so. This is unacceptable.

This mandate for strike action is no surprise to us - it should act as a wake-up call to this employer because these workers are done waiting and are ready to fight for a pay rise. They will receive Unites total and utter support in that fight.” 

The dates of the strike action, which will shut down all Southampton-to-Cowes ferry services, will be announced in the coming days.  

The Red Jet passenger ferry makes a minimum of 21 crossings between Southampton and west Cowes on Monday to Saturday and 15 on Sunday. The car ferry makes at least 19 crossings daily between Southampton and east Cowes.  

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said:The responsibility for these strikes and the disruption they will cause lies entirely with Red Funnel who have failed to put forward an deal that will tackle low wages and rising living costs. These strikes can still be avoided but Red Funnel needs to put forward an offer that our members can accept.”  


For media enquires ONLY contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.

Email: [email protected]  

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.